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Mary Lou McDonaldSinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, has called on the Irish government to show solidarity with the Palestinian people by formally recognising the state of Palestine.

Teachta McDonald said:

"International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People gives the international community, including Ireland, an opportunity to honour the hopes and aspirations for peace and dignity of the Palestinian people.

"The Palestinian people continue to live under daily oppression and the Israeli authorities are ramping up their ongoing attempts at annexation of vast swaths of the West Bank.

"Palestinian families are being made homeless daily. Just this week we have witnessed Palestinian families in the al-Burj and al-Maita areas of the Jordan Valley being forced out of their homes in order to make way for Israeli military training operations in the area.

"As communities throughout the world attempt to cope with a global pandemic, the Israeli government continues to compound the challenges faced by Palestinians through daily acts of aggression.

"Already this year, Israel authorities have destroyed more Palestinian homes than at any time since 2016.

"Earlier this month, on a single day, 41 children had their homes destroyed by the Israeli security forces.

"Demolition is not confined to residential homes. Humanitarian infrastructure, including farming equipment, has also been destroyed. Much of this equipment was funded by EU states, including Ireland.

"For all intents and purposes, the Israeli government is committed to making it impossible for the Palestinian people to maintain a viable homeland.

"I am, once again, calling on the Irish government to use this occasion to honour the wishes of the elected members of the Oireachtas who have voted to recognise the State of Palestine and formally doing so on behalf of the Irish people.

"They should also end their opposition to the Occupied Territories Bill and ensure it is brought back before the Oireachtas as soon as possible."

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Sinn Féin TD for Kerry Pa Daly has expressed his sympathies following the tragic death of a man who died as a result of a building he was working on collapsing in Ashe Street, Tralee, this morning. 

Teachta Daly:

"The death of this man following the partial collapse of a building he was working on has caused great shock and sadness in the local community. 

"My thoughts and sympathies are with his family, friends and co-workers at this extraordinarily sad and difficult time.

"Five co-workers were injured in the same incident, and I want to wish them a full and speedy recovery.

"This incident is being investigated by the Health and Safety Authority."

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Mary Lou McDonaldSpeaking on the centenary anniversary of the Kilmichael Ambush, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD described the event as a pivotal moment in Ireland's fight for independence. 

Teachta McDonald said "the courageous actions of Tom Barry and the men of his flying column turned the tide of the Tan War.”

The Sinn Féin President continued:

"Until Kilmichael there was a sense of invincibility around the forces of the Crown in Ireland. The Rising of 1916 had been suppressed - its leaders executed, and volunteers imprisoned. The British occupied the country. The great and the good told the people there was no other way. 

"But the IRA volunteers who gathered at Kilmichael were not deterred by any of that. They were not motivated by personal gain. They were not in awe of the great and the good. They were motivated purely by the noble cause of a free and equal Ireland as envisaged by the Proclamation of Easter Week. They set out in defence of the Republic.

"Most of the Volunteers present had little or no experience of guerrilla warfare and no formal military training. By contrast, the British forces were professionally armed and trained. As Tom Barry himself said the success of the ambush was down to the support the IRA received from the women of Cumann na mBan and particularly from “the poor people of West Cork.

"The IRA was the army of the people. The people stood by the flying columns as they took on the might of the British Empire. It was because of this support from the local community that the IRA was able to overcome enormous adversity at Kimicheal and in other encounters across Ireland. These successes galvanized the Republican cause and gave people belief that independence was possible despite the odds.

"Three IRA volunteers were killed at Kilmichael. Jim O’Sullivan, Michael McCarthy, and Pat Deasy laid down their lives for Irish freedom. It is important that we not only honour their memory but that we honour it in the right way. By working for a united Ireland and for the realisation of a real republic. 

"One hundred years later, we remember the sacrifices of those volunteers, but we live by their principles and we recommit ourselves to building the Ireland they fought to achieve. That is the very best tribute we could pay to the boys of Kilmichael who changed the course of history. Their selfless example continues to inspire us today as we seek positive, progressive change for our people and for our country.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Emma Rogan has called on UUP Councillor Alan Lewis to immediately clarify his comments and to condemn those responsible for vandalising bilingual signage at Drumcraw Crossroads.

The South Down MLA said:

“As opposed to condemning those responsible for vandalising bilingual signage at Drumcraw Crossroads, we have the bizarre situation wherein UUP Councillor Alan Lewis appears to be blaming the signs for being there. 

“Councillor Lewis has said that he has pointed out the signs are ‘divisive’ and that they ‘will be targeted’.

“As a public representative, Councillor Lewis should be standing up against vandals and these petty hate crimes. He needs to clarify his comments on this issue. 

“The Irish language is not divisive, it is an inclusive language that is thriving in South Down and increasingly being enjoyed by all members of our society from across the community.

“Those involved in these hate crimes will not succeed in their narrow minded and regressive agenda.”

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David CullinaneSinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called on the Minister for Health to recognise the key role that specialists in public health medicine have played in tackling the pandemic.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“Public health specialists have played a key role in tackling the pandemic.

“They have worked tirelessly and quietly on the frontline battling outbreaks across the state, and they are at the centre of our outbreak management system.

“Public health departments have been understaffed and under-resourced for decades at this point.

“The important role of public health medicine in maintaining a healthy Ireland had been forgotten until the pandemic struck.

“When Covid-19 reached our shores, public health departments - despite the challenges from a lack of resources - tackled it head on.

“The Minister must recognise the key role they have paid and ensure that not only are consultant posts made available for the profession - as elsewhere - but also ensure that existing qualified candidates are on the appropriate payscale.

“They already perform the job, and it would be unforgivable if frontline workers had to go on strike to get the contracts they should have had all along.

“If Minister Donnelly is committed to fully staffing public health departments and filling vacancies, he must expedite this process and avoid an industrial dispute.”

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Sinn Féin spokespeople for Workers Rights Jemma Dolan MLA and Louise O’Reilly TD have reiterated Sinn Féin’s support for the Make Amazon Pay Campaign.

This global campaign is being led by Trade Unionists, Environmentalists and progressives and calls on legislators throughout the World to oppose the way in which Amazon’s global expansion has eroded workers’ rights and undermined environmental standards. It also calls time on Amazon continued tax evasion across the world.

They said:

“Sinn Féin supports this campaign to make Amazon Pay. 

“While many businesses and workers have struggled throughout this pandemic, this multinational has grown its extortionate profits to levels that are unprecedented and unjustified.

“Within the last quarter alone Amazon’s global revenues have jumped to €80.6 billion, while in the 26 counties the company’s pre-tax profits have doubled over the last two years to €39.7 million.

“Despite these record increases Amazon has treated its workers with complete contempt. Throughout the pandemic workers had been ordered to work in unsafe conditions.

“The company has also trampled on collective bargaining rights and has been known to lay off workers attempting to unionise, while delivery drivers have been paid less than the minimum wages and have been exploited through bogus self-employment.

“In light of these abuses Sinn Féin has signed the #MakeAmazonPay petition and we would encourage other representatives from across the world to show solidarity and to also sign the pledge here: https://bit.ly/37hFyTM.”

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MacManus votes to protect Irish Lobster Fishers

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has voted against a proposal on the elimination of customs duties on certain products, citing the negative implications the deal would have on Irish lobster fishers.

Speaking from Sligo MacManus said:

“The vote that took place in the European Parliament concerned a US-EU deal that would see the elimination of tariffs for certain products, including an elimination of tariffs on US lobster being imported into the EU.”

The trade deal negotiations which were overseen by Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan have been widely criticised by people from Irish fishing and coastal communities.

“Unfortunately, I think the former commissioner has sold out the people from these communities. It would seem that the profit margins of French Multinationals is more important than the basic survival of a family from Galway or Donegal.” MacManus continued, “When this deal was announced, I raised my concerns that the elimination of tariffs will lead to low-priced American lobster flooding the EU market, which could have a detrimental effect on our fishing, coastal and island communities.”

The Midlands Northwest MEP said times were hard enough on fishing communities without adding to their woes. “This is already a hugely damaging time for Ireland’s fishing communities. Covid-19 and an impending Brexit has left the sector struggling. Tariff-free imports of US lobster will now add to that. 

MacManus concluded by calling for proper supports, “It is now incumbent on the Irish government and European Commission to ensure that our coastal and fishing communities are compensated for any lost revenue this deal incurs.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould has called on the Minister for Housing to issue an urgent statement outlining his plan to reform the Vacant Site Levy.

Deputy Gould’s comments come after figures published by the Parliamentary Budget Office show that only four local authorities reported collecting revenue under the levy in 2020.

Teachta Gould said:

“The Vacant Site Levy (VSL) was brought in to encourage landowners to utilise their empty land and build houses. It would appear that it is failing miserably in this attempt. As of the end of 2019, only 17 of 31 local authorities had active vacant site registers.

“The VSL is determined at 7% of the market value of a site. Only four local authorities reported collecting revenue under the levy in 2020 and again, only four reported the same in 2019. The levies collected were nowhere near the site value. Cork City Council have collected just under €21,875 to date in 2020, with vacant sites of an estimated market value of €27 million - this represents only 0.08% of their value.

“Thirteen local authorities responded with an estimated number of houses that could be built on their vacant sites. They estimated that 14,995 houses could be built. Given that eighteen local authorities didn’t respond, this is a shocking figure. At the end of 2019, there were 501 people on the social housing waiting list in Sligo, for example. The local authority estimated that 1,487 houses could be built on vacant sites in the county. Building on even one third of these sites could meet Sligo’s social housing need.

“Local authorities have raised many concerns about the Vacant Site Levy including confusion in determining vacancy. What is clear is that this is not working and that something needs to be urgently done to ensure that sites are not left sitting idle while people wait for homes.

“The Minister for Housing needs to respond to this report and publish a strategy to ensure that we see homes for workers and families built on vacant sites.”

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Eoin Ó BroinSinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has voiced his concern at the rise in the number of adults and children living in emergency accommodation in October.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Housing, 8,737 adults and children were accessing homeless services in October 2020, an increase of 81 on September.

Teachta Ó Broin said:

“The latest figures published by the Department of Housing this evening indicate that 6,905 adults, 2,642 children and 1,117 families were living in emergency accommodation in October.

“Compared to the previous month, this marks an increase of 59 children and 22 adults.

“The figures had begun to dip slightly in previous months due to the Covid-19 ban on evictions during the summer.

“Unfortunately, this dip didn’t continue through October.

“8,737 adults and children do not have a secure roof over their heads. Behind these numbers are real people who are being let down by our housing system.

“The government must revisit its opposition to the Focus Ireland amendment which would prevent buy-to-let landlords from evicting families when they want to sell their property.

“We must also see a greater emphasis on homeless prevention services, on keeping families in their homes, and on working with local authorities to develop action plans before these families have nowhere else to turn but to homeless services.

“Government must, given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, reinstate the ban on the issuing of notices to quit, rent increases and evictions until at least March 2021."

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan is calling for taxi drivers to be included into the Department for Economy’s Covid  Restrictions Business Support Scheme, after initially being excluded.

The Newry and Armagh MLA stated:

“Taxi drivers were very disappointed to learn they were excluded from the Department for Economy’s Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme.

“This was despite the Minister for Infrastructure raising expectations that taxi drivers will be included in the scheme.

"My party colleagues in the Economy committee have been calling for their inclusion in part B of the scheme and I have also written to the Economy minister on this issue.

“These drivers have been hard hit for months now and need to get the proper support the sector needs during this unprecedented pandemic.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Justice, Senator Lynn Boylan, has criticised the government for squandering €50 million on carbon credits instead of using it for real climate action.

Speaking today, Senator Boylan said:

“This is what happens when successive governments pay lip service to climate action. We need to start making the necessary investments to reduce our emissions.

“Failing to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and to meet our targets means we have to buy allowances from countries that did.

“It’s like modern day indulgences – we get to go on emitting carbon dioxide and buy our way to meeting our targets. All we get for our €50 million is a piece of paper and absolution.

“The government have completely squandered taxpayers’ money. It will bring no material benefit to anyone in Ireland. And this €50million is on top of hundreds of millions of allowances already purchased.

“With that money, we could have made ordinary people’s lives better by investing in renewable energy, retrofitting people’s homes, improving public transport.

“We have to move away from this carbon credit nonsense and drive down our overall emissions.

“Yes, increasing our renewable energy is important but the most impactful climate action is the reduction of energy use overall and that is why a fit for purpose and ambitious climate bill is essential.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Martin Kenny TD has said that yesterday's revelations in the Dáil show that Fine Gael cronyism is alive and well.

Speaking today, Teachta Kenny said: 

“Yesterday we saw why the Minister for Justice fought so hard to avoid having to come into the Dáil and answer questions. When she finally came in and attempted to explain the process she went through in appointing Séamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court, we discovered that in reality there had basically been no process at all.

“The truth was laid bare. Instead of a proper process, she went to one member of the Cabinet - her party leader - had a casual conversation with him in which he told her that he felt the former Attorney General would make a “good judge” and lo' and behold, he got the job.

“This was cronyism of the highest order and it is totally unacceptable.

“Behaviour like this is what happens when Fine Gael are in office - looking out for jobs for their friends and insiders. It is not a fair or reasonable way to run things.

“The Tánaiste needs to come forward now and explain why he did this. The Taoiseach also has questions to answer here about what he knew and how he has allowed this situation to happen. It is absolutely ridiculous that the Taoiseach allowed this to happen.

“I recently published a Bill to prevent those vacating the position of Attorney General from being appointed to superior judicial office; in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal or the High Court, for a period of two years after leaving office.

“If we are serious about making sure this situation does not arise again, we need to make sure that becomes law."

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Pearse DohertySinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has expressed disbelief that the Central Bank have failed to take a single enforcement action against banks in the past five years for breaches of the Code of Conduct of Mortgage Arrears.

Teachta Doherty said that the information, released to him through a reply to a parliamentary question, defied credulity and called on the Central Bank to explain the lack of enforcement actions.

Teachta Doherty said:

“It has been revealed by a reply I received to a parliamentary question I put to the Minister for Finance that the Central Bank have failed to take one single enforcement action in the past five years for breaches of the Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears.

“The CCMA came into effect in July 2013 and was issued under Section 117 of the Central Bank Act 1989.

“It was introduced to protect borrowers and ensure that banks deal with borrowers sympathetically and positively.

“The Code is not a set of guidelines for the banks. They are required to comply with it as a matter of law.

“The Central Bank was given the power to hand out sanctions where banks breach the Code of Conduct of Mortgage Arrears. But not one enforcement action has been taken since 2016.

“It is not credible that not one bank has breached the Code on any occasion in the past five years.

“I have spoken to countless borrowers who have been denied Alternative Repayment Arrangements from their lenders in the past two months alone, despite losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

“The Central Bank have questions to answer, and I have written to the Governor to ask what systems they have in place to identify breaches of the Code by banks.

“We are in an economic crisis with historic job losses. With mortgage arrears inevitable, the Irish people need to have confidence that the Central Bank will do its job.”

Response to Parliamentary Question

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Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has welcomed a unanimous cross-party decision from Armagh Banbridge & Craigavon (ABC) Council to discontinue planning permission for a controversial wind turbine at Cnoc Úibh Eachach (Knock Iveagh).

The South Down MP, who has been campaigning alongside local residents for several years has said this is a potential "watershed moment” in the ongoing campaign to protect this local site of national historical significance.

Chris Hazzard MP said:
“I welcome this cross-party decision from ABC Council to discontinue planning permission for a controversial wind turbine site at Cnoc Úibh Eachach (Knock Iveagh) and echo their call for planning authorities to take immediate action towards discontinuing planning permission."Cnoc Úibh Eachach, or Knock Iveagh, is located in the ancient parishes of Drumballyroney & Annaclone; and was a focal point for some of the earliest tribe and clan communities in this part of Ireland.


"Indeed the name ‘Cnoc Úibh Eachach’ indicates that the site was considered the most important ‘cnoc’ or ‘knock’ in the historic kingdom of Iveagh. Historians believe that the summit was the likely inauguration site and ritual area for the Úi Echach Cobha tribe, and later the ‘Lords of Iveagh’, the prominent Magennis clan.

"A site of such unique and rich historical, ritual and archaeological significance should not be blighted by any form of development whose economic value is paltry compared to the unparalleled national significance of Cnoc Úibh Eachach, the ceremonial site at the centre of the ancient kingdom of Úibh Eachach Cobha."Sinn Féin will continue to work to protect this historic heritage site."

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“EU Brexit Fund must be distributed on economic impact not political clout” - MacManus

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has said the EU’s Brexit Fund, the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, must be distributed in a transparent way and on the basis of the economic impact of Brexit on the economies of countries and regions. He said while the Fund is welcome and important, a broader range of supports will be needed for the Irish economy. 

MacManus was responding to reports that French President Emmanuel Macron was seeking to acquire a significant portion of the fund as compensation for French fishers. 

MacManus said:

“The Brexit Fund is recognition of the deep economic impact Brexit - hard or soft - will have on EU member states. It must be distributed fairly and transparently with actual quantifiable overall economic impact on a country and regions as the main criteria in how it is distributed. This is not a political fund and cannot be used to assist one particular industry alone.”

The Midlands Northwest MEP highlighted Ireland’s plight: “In Ireland’s case Brexit means part of the country leaving the EU compounding the economic damage partition causes. Moreover, the new map of the EU shows Ireland as an island hundreds of mile adrift from the rest of the single market. Our island will be permanently disadvantaged and will need solidarity in actions and not just words.”

“This Fund must play a part in that solidarity and we must fight for a fair share. Sinn Féin has pointed to other areas like re-examining the Trans-European Networks in Transport and Energy and the Regional Aid Guidelines because Brexit means Ireland is geographically more disadvantaged than ever before.”

MacManus concluded by calling for cross party cooperation to fight Ireland’s corner: “The Irish government and all our MEPs must be arguing for and winning the maximum level of support for our economy on a long term basis, not on the basis of greed or as a political electoral aid but because the facts shows that we will need the support much more than any other country.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has hailed a resurfacing scheme in Beechmount Park, Randalstown as a win for residents’ persistence, but has expressed disappointment that this good news story has been the subject of petty, disingenuous claims from another party.

The South Antrim MLA said:

“It was disappointing to read comments from both a former Antrim Town councillor, and a sitting Dunsilly councillor, concerning the resurfacing scheme of works recently started in Beechmount Park, Randalstown.

“To borrow a term used in their comments, the only ‘sour note’ introduced, to what I consider is a good news story for the residents of Beechmount Park, was the competing claims narrative these political opponents chose to peddle.

“As a South Antrim MLA, and a Minister in our power sharing government, I take my political leadership responsibilities seriously. I am charged with giving representation to the concerns and priorities of constituents from right across South Antrim. I advocate and campaign on their behalf without fear or favour. I have used my mandate and influence effectively to stand up for constituents regardless of their background or belief. 

“My record of constituency work in Randalstown speaks for itself; a fact well known by particular critics in this instance.

“At any given time, other political representatives may be engaged separately on the same issues. I would not seek to belittle their efforts. What really matters to me is that positive outcomes are achieved, and the lives of people are improved.

“So, if collective efforts result in outcomes which benefit local constituents that is to be welcomed. Mature political representation is not about the pursuit of personal credit or patronage. That is why these comments are so silly and small minded.

“In this instance I, once more, publicly congratulate the residents of Beechmount Park whose persistence in pursuing political representation has delivered a long awaited and deserved outcome. The local residents are the winners. They deserve the credit.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has welcomed that his Bill “The Mental Health Parity of Esteem” passed second stage yesterday.

The legislation aims to compel a change in attitudes towards mental health at the highest level of policy making and governance.

Teachta Ward said: 

“I am delighted that the Mental Health Parity of Esteem Bill received cross party support and will now go to committee stage for legislative scrutiny. 

“I have engaged with stakeholders right across the spectrum of mental health since becoming Sinn Féin’s mental health spokesperson and the issue of parity was raised regularly. 

“For too long, mental health has been the Cinderella of the health services and what this Bill does is place mental health on the same level as physical health. 

“This Bill will pave the way for 24/7 access to emergency mental health services. 

“Mental Health issues do not just occur between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday and magically reappear after the weekend. 

“If I hurt the outside of my head and have to attend hospital, I will be treated with the appropriate aftercare, however if I have an issue going on inside my head I will not receive the same level of treatment. 

“This piece of legislation also aims to compel a change in attitudes towards mental health at the highest level of policy making and governance. If change occurs at this level it will filter down to all levels of society. 

“While this Bill is not a panacea to all the systemic problems in mental health provisions it will go a long way in putting mental health at the very forefront of overall health policy.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD, has voiced his concern at the 70% drop in the draw down of Rebuilding Ireland Homeloan mortgages in 2020 as a result of Covid19.

The Dublin Mid-West TD's comments come on foot of information provided to him by the Department of Housing.

Teachta Ó Broin said:

“Figures I received in response to a parliamentary question indicate that Covid19 has had a dramatic impact on the drawdown of Rebuilding Ireland Homeloan mortgages in 2019.

“In the first half of 2019 a total of 470 Council mortgages were drawn down. In the first six months of 2020 that number had fallen to just 212 - a drop of 54%.

“However if you compare the Q2 figures in both years you see 231 drawdowns in Q2 2019 compared to just 67 in Q2 in 2020. This represents a 70% drop in mortgage drawdowns.

“Given that the real impact of Covid19 only began to impact on peoples earnings from March of this year it is clear that Covid19 has had a significant impact on the drawdown of Rebuilding Ireland Homeloans.

“It is very concerning that that the blanket ban issued on Rebuilding Ireland Homeloan mortgage drawdowns for households on the Wage Subsidy Scheme and Pandemic Unemployment Payment has resulted in a significant number of potential buyers not being a position to draw down the mortgages that they were approved in principle for.

“Households applying for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan are generally on lower incomes which are the cohort of people who have been more adversely impacted by Covid19 and the temporary layoffs due to the restrictions.

“We need to see a fuller picture and the Minister for Housing must publish the quarter three data for 2020 as a matter of urgency. He must also make a statement on the matter to give his view on this dramatic drop in mortgage drawdowns.”

ENDS

Note to editor:

For Oral Answer on : 24/11/2020
Question Number(s)51 Question Reference(s): 38311/20
Department: Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Asked by: Eoin Ó Broin T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage the number of Rebuilding Ireland home loan drawdowns to date in 2020 in each local authority; and the average amount drawn down in each local authority in tabular form.
REPLY

My Department publishes information on the overall number and value of (i) local authority loan approvals and (ii) local authority loan drawdowns. Local authority approval means that an official letter of offer has been sent to a borrower (and therefore relates to a specific property and loan amount).
Figures for the first two quarters of 2020 are available on my Department's website and I will arrange for the relevant weblink to be circulated with the official record.  
[Weblink to be included with the official record:]
https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/statistics/house-prices-loans-and-profile-borrowers/local-authority-loan-activity 
 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called on the Government to facilitate remote learning for all high-risk families.

Speaking today after addressing the issue with student and parent groups at the Oireachtas Education Committee, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“I have been contacted by many parents who are medically vulnerable and at high-risk, and their children must stay at home from school as a result. The guidance is not clear enough on how remote learning will be facilitated.

“Currently these families are not being facilitated by the Department, and the children are losing out on their education as a result. This is unacceptable.

“The position of the Department is that where children are not high-risk themselves, they are not to be provided with remote learning. This is unnecessarily obstinate. It does not recognise the reality that it may be extremely dangerous in some instances for children to attend school and return home to a parent who has a serious medical condition.

“The Department’s current approach is denying many children an adequate education. It is completely unfair that children must go to school worried that they may be bringing home illness to their medically vulnerable parent. Indeed, figures from a survey from the Irish Secondary Level Students’ Union show that it’s one of the top issues that students themselves are worried about.

“Children are dealing with enough stress and anxiety at the moment without this additional worry. Any child who has a high-risk family member at home should be allowed to stay at home, and should be facilitated with remote learning.

“We have been calling on Minister Foley to address this for months now, meanwhile children are losing out. I am again urging the Government to act swiftly to provide remote learning for these families."

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DonnchadhSinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on government to urgently provide sixth year students with clarity with regards contingency plans for Leaving Certificate examinations this year. 

Speaking today after addressing the issue with student and parent groups at the Oireachtas Education Committee, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“Sixth year students deserve to know the plans in place for their Leaving Cert. I am hearing many reports from students that they are having to deal with constant assessment in their classes.

"Many are concerned that results of these class tests will end up contributing to their final Leaving Cert grade as there has been no guidance from the Department of Education either way. 

“Over-assessment is becoming a huge issue. Students, who are trying to undertake the marathon that is Leaving Cert year, must sprint the whole way due to weekly and monthly testing. This is just not sustainable - the stress is unbearable.

“Contingency plans are essential so that students can plan their studies accordingly. From my conversations with them, it is apparent that this contingency must be premised on ensuring that the overwhelming desire for a written exam is made clear.

“It is also clear that, regardless of what the contingency plans announced are, calculated grades must be taken off the table.

"Calculated grading did not work. We do not need to repeat it.

“There must be contingencies in place as a case will inevitably arise where a student is self-isolating on the day of an exam or an oral. Students should not be left with the fear that if they are unwell, they will miss the opportunity to take their Leaving Cert, and the anxiety that this would bring.

“One change that can be made is to allow for even greater choice on the exam papers. Some welcome moves have been made in this regard. But more can be done to take account of the loss of learning experienced by sixth years when schools were closed.

“We do not know exactly what will happen next year, and we can’t foresee what the Covid situation will look like. But the government must look at the mistakes made this year, and make sure they are never again repeated.

“Leaving Cert students need to know the plan, and they need to know now. It is the least they deserve after the extremely difficult year they have experienced."

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