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Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has called for any mothers who gave birth in Mother and Baby Homes to get in contact with the police. 

The Mid-Ulster MLA said: 

"The police are currently working with the Australian Federal Police to locate adults in Australia who may have been victims of the Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland.  

"Hundreds of children were taken from their mothers and sold to families in Australia, and across the world. 

"This is an opportunity to reunite mothers and their children who have been robbed of knowing each other for decades. 

"This won't right the wrongs of the past but it is a huge step forward for victims and survivors and is an opportunity many mothers thought they would never have." 

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has called on the British Government to ‘stop the passage’ of the flawed Legacy Bill which is designed to block truth and justice for victims and families.


Speaking ahead of a demonstration outside the NIO headquarters at Erskine House in Belfast city centre at 1pm  today, the North Belfast MP called for dialogue to deliver an agreed way forward.


John Finucane said:


“The flawed Legacy Bill will go to the British House of Lords today, ignoring opposition from victims and families, human rights experts, churches, the UN and all the political parties on this island.


“Just last week, a letter from a cross-party group of US politicians told British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the Bill will deny truth and justice to thousands of victims and families.


“This cruel and callous legislation is designed to shut down efforts to get justice through the courts, and to let British state forces who killed Irish citizens off the hook.


“I am reiterating Sinn Féin’s call for an urgent summit involving the British and Irish governments and political parties on the issue of legacy.   


“If the British Government is serious about upholding victims and families legal right to truth and justice, they will stop the passage of the Legacy Bill to allow for dialogue.


“The legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House in 2014 demonstrated that working together is the best way to achieve an agreed way forward, not self-serving solo runs.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said workers, families and businesses need to be supported through the cost of living crisis. The party's economy spokesperson said:"Today along with Paul Maskey MP and John Finucane MP, I met with Vicky Davies, Chief Executive of Danske Bank, as part of a series of meetings with local banks to discuss the impact of the cost of living and cost of doing business crises."Families and businesses are struggling as the costs of many everyday essentials including electricity, gas, petrol and food, soar."The recent interest rate hikes were exacerbated by the disastrous and reckless budget announced by the British government in the autumn, and many people saw mortgage and loan repayments increase by hundreds of pounds. "In our discussion with the bank we highlighted the need for workers, families and businesses to be supported through the cost of living crisis."Customers facing financial difficulty should get in touch with their banks to discuss options and flexibilities available."Financial institutions along with government have a role and responsibility in helping people in the current difficult economic climate." 

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First Minister Designate Michelle O’Neill has said the upgrade of the A5 road will save lives and said work must begin immediately once legal challenges have been overcome. 

The Sinn Fein Leas-Uachtarán was speaking after the launch of the GAA’s Enough lives lost on the A5 campaign at Garvaghey.

Michelle O’Neill MLA said:

“We have seen devastating loss of life on the A5 over many years. We need to finally see this project delivered to help prevent further heartbreak on this dangerous road.

“I recently raised the A5 with An Taoiseach and made it clear that upgrading this road must continue to be a shared priority for the Irish Government and any new Executive.

“A full upgrade and dualling of this road from Derry to Aughnacloy, via Strabane and Omagh, was agreed by the Executive and the Irish Government in 2007.

“This development has been held up for too long by legal challenges and public inquiries. Once these challenges are overcome, it must proceed without delay.

“Not only will this project transform a dangerous road, but it will also have huge economic benefits, create jobs and help connect the north west to the rest of the island.

“Delivering the A5 road upgrade will save lives. It will continue to be a priority for Sinn Féin.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said the DUP’s boycott of the Executive has left public services at the mercy of cruel Tory cuts.

Speaking after the Budget Bill passed through Westminster today, Conor Murphy said:

“The decision by the DUP to boycott the Executive has left people and public services exposed to the full wrath of savage Tory cuts.

“Locally elected ministers should be working together around the Executive and setting a Budget, but instead Tory ministers with no mandate are making bad decisions for people here.

“And this comes at a time of crisis in our health service, when health workers are struggling to cope and ambulances are piled up at the doors of jam packed A&Es.  

“Sinn Féin is ready to form an Executive today, to deliver a three year Budget, and work together with others to invest in the health service and tackle the rising cost of living.

“There is serious work to be done. Chris Heaton-Harris needs to clarify now exactly what he is doing to get the Executive up and running now.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has said that the Society of St Vincent De Paul spending €2 million last year to 600 students in third-level education must serve as a wake-up call for government.

Teachta Conway-Walsh said:

“St Vincent De Paul has reported that more and more students are reaching out to them for help each year. It is clear that third-level education is becoming unattainable for many families.

“Too many students and their families are facing into another term of struggle to keep ahead of unprecedented costs of accessing third level education.

“SUSI supports have not kept pace with the rising cost of living and others are excluded altogether. While this year saw the first increase in this maintenance grant, that was the first increase since the supports were introduced over 10 years ago.

“The government commissioned an independent review that was published last year that called for a 25 percent increase in the amount of the supports in order to keep up with the rising cost of living. That increase was based on meeting pre-pandemic costs and did not take into account the last two years of inflation.

“The housing and cost of living crises are affecting all aspects of our society. Further and higher education is no exception. This has the potential to set back years in terms of increased access into third-level education.

“We have seen rents increase by 82 percent over the last 10 years. The cost of rent has now become the single biggest barrier to third-level education and has put rural communities at a particular disadvantage.

“The government recently announced an increase to the Student Assistance Fund. While this is welcome, it will only serve to paper over the cracks.

“What is needed is a comprehensive plan to reduce the cost of education and increase SUSI supports. Sinn Féin is ready to work with the government to make these reforms."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, Mairéad Farrell TD, will bring forward legislation to reform the public ethics framework in the wake of recent ministerial resignations and concerns around standards in public office.

Teachta Farrell said:

“The entire ethics framework needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, but my bill would allow it to better function while that process takes place. 

“Simply allowing the ongoing situation to persist while the government tells us that they are ‘working on it’ is tantamount to saying there will be no accountability in the lifetime of this government.

“In recent months, we have had two ministerial resignations for, among other things, a failure to disclose relevant interests. 

“We have had many having to correct the statements of their interests due to a failure to disclose all the required information. We have even had complaints referred to SIPO, who are also currently investigating the minister in charge of public ethics and standards.

“The public ethics framework in this state is long overdue an overhaul. It is a bizarre situation where we have an ethics watchdog (SIPO) who cannot initiate its own investigations despite them having requested this power for years.

“There is no penalty for those who fail to disclose their interests, and in recent months we have seen certain ministers seemingly forgetting that they had more properties than you could count on both hands.

“Lastly, the fact that Oireachtas members are not required to disclose their liabilities above a certain threshold, excluding the private home, is a major weakness that has long been identified.

“Many will recall the use of ‘guaranteed loans’ and the part that they played in corruption scandals of the tribunals era. How this was never rectified is beyond me.

“My bill would allow SIPO to initiate investigations on its own, broaden the list of declarable interests, and make it a sanctionable offence for someone found to have wilfully and recklessly failed to make the required disclosures.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has said that urgent action is needed to fix the dysfunctional Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) that is failing children and families.

Responding to the Mental Health Commission Report published today, Teachta Cullinane outlined four key priority areas where urgent action is needed.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“The Mental Health Commission review into CAMHS makes for difficult reading. Failure to properly invest in the service is having real, tragic consequences for these children, including hundreds of ‘lost’ children who were put on medication without any follow up care.

“Our children deserve action and a functioning mental health service. Urgent action is needed and there are several key steps that the government can and should take.

“Firstly, we need ringfenced funding for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. It needs a clear budget and accountability for that budget. 

“Sharing the Vision, the government’s mental health plan, has not been costed and there is no timeframe for implementation. 

“The heel-dragging must stop now and a clear funding plan must be put in place. Sinn Féin set out a multi-annual funding plan in our Alternative Budget for Health 2023 and the government must do the same.

“Secondly, the government must set national standards for monitoring the use of antipsychotic medications by children and young people. This should be part of new regulations under the Mental Health Act focused on regulating CAMHS. It is clearly needed to ensure that no more children are given strong medication and then forgotten about.

“Thirdly, we need a medium-term plan for expanding CAMHS to help young adults up to 25. This is international best practice, but currently we are letting children drop off a cliff edge in relation to services at 18. Adult mental health services are not resourced or the right place for young adults with emerging mental health difficulties.

“Fourthly, we need a serious workforce plan to deliver the services which our children deserve. The government has not trained enough mental health professionals, especially psychiatrists, or sufficiently supported those that are in place. 

"Like everything else in healthcare, this crisis has been caused by a failure to plan. CAMHS teams are woefully understaffed. Education and training places must be rapidly increased across further and higher education institutes to give us a pipeline for staff for our CAMHS teams.

“It is important that we don’t forget who this is about. This is about children with really serious mental health problems who need to be seen urgently and have been referred into services which, in many cases, don’t exist, or have extremely long waiting lists, or which are poorly staffed or poorly funded. This is an absolute disgrace that has put children in harm’s way. 

“They cannot access the services they need when they need them, and hundreds have been given medication without any follow up, as if that will solve their problems. It has likely made them worse, and families are suffering because of it.

“This system is failing children and families. A line must be drawn in the sand because enough is enough.”

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Government failed to properly inform farmers and public about new tax – Chris MacManus MEP

Sinn Féin MEP for Midlands Northwest meets with affected landowners in Carndonagh, Co. Donegal

Sinn Féin MEP for Midlands Northwest, Chris MacManus, has criticised the Irish government for failing in their responsibility to ensure farmers were properly informed and aware of the impacts and processes surrounding the new Residential Zoned Land Tax. The Midlands Northwest MEP was speaking after meeting with local landowners in Carndonagh, Co Donegal affected by the new tax alongside his colleagues Cllr Albert Doherty and Cllr Terry Crossan.
 
MEP MacManus said;
 “I have been meeting many farmers in my constituency, including here in Carndonagh, and many of them across the country were not made properly aware by the state of the new implications and processes concerning the new Residential Zoned Land Tax, especially for land that is farmed."

“I stand by my colleague Matt Carthy’s remarks that farmland in agricultural use should not be zoned for construction.
“Authorities zoning or rezoning a farmer’s land, without their knowledge or consent is an appalling practice which I unreservedly condemn."

“If farmers have found their farmland zoned for the tax in that situation, the onus shouldn’t be left solely with the farmer to resolve this."

 “I fear many farmers caught unaware will be overwhelmed by the sudden administrative burden that will be thrust on top of their many other concerns."

“The prospect of farmers on low incomes also paying significant sums of this new tax for land that is already in agricultural use is an unacceptable scenario."

“The state should extend the deadline that was on the 1st January to accommodate the farmers that were not properly informed due to poor government communication and allow them the adequate period unlike before to make a submission about land that they think should be excluded or included."

MacManus concluded, “The lack of transparency around the Residential Zoned Land is the government’s failure not the public’s. Farmers, and rural homeowners should not be penalised for the state neglecting it duty to communicate and inform effectively.” ENDS

See attached photo of (L-R): Seamus Campbell (Teagasc), Chris MacManus MEP, Cllr Albert Doherty and Carndonagh landowners

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD, has called on Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to explain the €1bn capital underspend from his 2022 budget allocation. 

The call comes as the total underspend was revealed in a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Incoming Minister’s Brief 2022 document prepared for Paschal Donohoe last month.

Teachta Ó Broin said:

“We have known for some months that the Department of Housing had a significant underspend last year and that the government would miss their social and affordable housing targets.

“However, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Incoming Minister’s Brief prepared for Paschal Donohoe in December estimates that the total capital underspend in the Department of Housing last year will be as high as €1bn.

“Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien must explain this scandalous underspend. We are in the middle of an escalating housing and homeless crisis. Rents and house prices are rising. Homelessness is at record levels.

“The idea that the Minister for Housing would allow a capital underspend of up to €1bn is absolutely scandalous.

“The DEPR report sets out in stark detail the impact of the underspend. Social Housing output is likely to be 28% below target with just 6500 of the promised 9000 new build social homes delivered.

“Affordable housing output is likely to be a staggering 78% short of the 4100 affordable homes promised. The DEPR report estimates that less than 1000 affordable homes were delivered last year.

“There is a direct link between the deepening housing crisis and the Minister for Housing's missed targets. People are homeless because the government is failing to meet its social housing targets. Rents and house prices are rising because the government is failing to meet its affordable housing targets.

“For the third year in a row, Darragh O’Brien has missed his public housing targets and failed to spend the capital allocated to him. The government's housing plan is not working. It is making the crisis worse. 

“Only a new housing plan, from a new minister, under a new government, can start to end the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael housing crisis.”

The Incoming Minister's Brief can be read here.

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Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavan has called on the British Government to respect the clear calls made in a report adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), with regard to the impact of Brexit on human rights in Ireland.

The report, entitled “The Impact of Brexit on human rights on the island of Ireland,” was endorsed by more than a two to one majority of members of the assembly.

It is highly critical of the British Government with regard to its stance on the Protocol, it’s so called Legacy Bill and unilateral actions that could undermine the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking at the commencement of the winter session of PACE in Strasbourg, Senator Gavan said: 

“The report has sent a clear message to the British Government regarding the absolute need to respect human rights, respect the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, protect the Good Friday Agreement, and refrain from taking unilateral action.

“The people of the North of Ireland did not vote for Brexit. So it is entirely appropriate that this report calls for the smooth and efficient implementation of the Protocol. 

"The report also highlights that the British government’s previous attempts to pursue a unilateral policy to change core elements of the Protocol constitutes a clear breach of international law.

“The report also cites 'serious concerns' regarding the compatibility of the British Government’s so called Legacy Bill with the European Convention on Human Rights. 

"This Bill of Shame which would, uniquely in the world and against all principles of domestic and international law, close down all routes to justice for people bereaved in the conflict should now be shelved without further delay. 

"There is not one single party in Ireland, north of south, who supports this appalling Bill which again constitutes a breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The report also makes a clear call for the immediate re-establishment of the Assembly for the North.

“The coming weeks may be crucial in potentially resolving issues around the Protocol, but the wider implications of Brexit with regard to human rights, the continuing denial of justice to so many families in the North, and the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement are all called out in this report.

"The British Government, as member of the Council of Europe, must respect the key demands in this report and immediately refrain from any further unilateral action.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has called on the Minister for Mental Health, Mary Butler, to give a statement and answer questions in the Dáil following the publication of a damning interim report by the Mental Health Commission.

The report found serious concerns and consequent risks for patients in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Teachta Ward has also asked for the Oireachtas Mental Health Committee to meet urgently with the HSE to discuss the crisis in children’s mental health, and added that it is clear that CAMHS is not working and that an urgent strategy is needed to tackle the crisis.

Teachta Ward said:

“The publication of a damning Interim Report into CAMHS has shown that we have now gone way beyond crisis point when it comes to our children’s mental health.

“Only last week I raised the issue that the number of children waiting on an appointment with CAMHS has increased by 86 percent under this government.

“Of major concern is the situation of the ‘lost children’ identified in this report. This pertains to children and young people with open cases, who have been lost to follow-up. 

“Ultimately the report describes a situation of children, who should have had follow-up appointments, including review of prescriptions or monitoring of medication, waiting for an appointment in some cases for up to two years.

“That is completely unacceptable. That is two years where some teams were not monitoring antipsychotic medication, in accordance with international standards, while other children were taking medication without appropriate blood tests and physical monitoring that is essential when on such medication.

“In one CAMHS team alone, there were 140 ‘lost children’. Everything must be done to identify these children immediately to ensure that they receive the appropriate mental health treatment. Parents who are concerned that their child is one of the lost children need to be able to access help.

“The Mental Health Commission found that lack of governance in many areas is contributing to some inefficient and unsafe CAMHS services, including the failure to manage risk, failure to fund and recruit key staff.

“The current systems within the HSE are counterproductive as there is a failure to look at alternative models of providing services when recruitment becomes difficult.

“There is also no ring-fenced budget for CAMHS, which hinders the ability to provide a standardised service across and within CHOs. 

“I want to thank Dr Susan Finnerty and the Mental Health Commission for highlighting the crisis in CAMHS. 

“The government must now look at the immediate regulation of CAMHS under the Mental Health Act. This would give the Mental Health Commission the power to set standards for high quality and good practices across all CAMHS services. 

“I also want to commend the Mental Health Commission for producing an interim report early because of the identified risks to children due to lack of clinical governance.

“These were escalated to the Chief Officer of the relevant CHO and in one case to the Assistant National Director, Head of Operations, Quality and Service Improvement in the HSE.

“However, when I raised this directly with the Minister in the Dáil late last year, she claimed that she was not informed by the HSE the nature of these risks.

“We need to see the reinstatement of the position of a National Director for Mental Health who is responsible, accountable and reports directly to the Minister.

“The HSE is currently conducting three national audits into CAMHS. It is concerning that the HSE has not found any risks significant enough to escalate to the Minister or to produce an interim report so they can put the appropriate measures in place.

“The report found serious concerns and consequent risks for some patients across areas of four out of five Community Healthcare CAMHS. The one area that passed with flying colours is an area where the CAMHS service is delivered by an independent provider.

“What a damning indictment of the HSE.

“I am calling for the Minister for Mental Health Mary Butler to have a debate in the Dáil after the publication of an interim report by the Mental Health Commission, and that the Oireachtas Mental Health Committee meet urgently with the HSE to discuss the crisis in children’s mental health. 

“It is clear that CAMHS is not working and that an urgent strategy is needed to tackle the crisis.”

The report can be read here.

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said the British Secretary of State should listen to the voices of leading US figures on key issues of the Protocol and legacy. 

Speaking ahead of Chris Heaton-Harris’ visit to the US, Conor Murphy said: 

“The US administration has been steadfast in its support for the Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement and ensuring people in the north and our economy is fully protected. 

“It has affirmed its support with the appointment of Special Envoy Joe Kennedy and it’s critical that Chris Heaton Harris works with him and the parties to restore power-sharing and use 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement as a platform to our economic benefit 

“The US has also been very clear in its strong opposition to the British Government’s flawed Legacy Bill and its negative implications for victims and families and their right to truth and justice. That was reaffirmed in a letter to Rishi Sunak last week.

“Chris Heaton-Harris must heed the voices of senior figures in the US, and right across Europe, urging his government to scrap the Legacy Bill and to continue working in good faith with the EU to find durable and pragmatic solutions on the Protocol.  

“Businesses and our economy need certainty and stability and to continue benefitting from the unique opportunities afforded by the Protocol to create jobs and attract investment. 

“He has a responsibility to ensure workers get a fair pay rise, invest in our health and public services and to strengthen the Rates Support Grant available to local councils to keep costs down for households. 

“There is no time to waste. People need an Executive formed now to deliver for them. They need clarity from Chris Heaton-Harris on what, if anything, he has done to restore the Assembly and Executive. He should spell that out to US leaders during his visit.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has tonight extended his sorrow and condolences to the family of Jim McCabe who passed away today.

Paul Maskey said:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of West Belfast man Jim McCabe earlier today. I extend my condolences to his children, grandchildren and family circle on their sad loss.

“In July 1981, Jim’s 33-year-old wife Nora was murdered by a plastic bullet fired by the RUC when she was returning from the shop with a pint of milk to her home in Linden Street in the Falls. Jim and Nora had three children when she was murdered, the youngest only three months old.

“In a statement following the incident the RUC lied claiming there had been rioting in the area when the bullet was fired. 

“Jim McCabe and his family were devastated but he immediately decided that he would do all in his power to get justice for his wife and the other victims of plastic bullets fired by the RUC and British Army.

“He campaigned against the use of plastic bullets by British state forces and travelled the world to tell his story and that of the other victims of plastic bullets including children.

“He was one of the founders of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets in 1985.

“The RUC’s lie about Nora’s case was eventually exposed. A Canadian TV crew which had been filming in the area at the time showed conclusively that the area was quiet when the RUC fired the plastic bullet which fatally wounded Nora.

“Jim campaigned for decades to ban the use of these lethal weapons and he and his family regularly attended protests and rallies against their use.

“The years of campaigning took its toll on Jim and his family, but last year on the 40th anniversary on July 7th, they marked Nora’s death by unveiling a plaque in Linden Street in her memory.

“Today the McCabe family have lost their dad and grandad, the community of West Belfast have lost a champion for justice and human rights.

“Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has welcomed ‘significant opposition’ from the US Congress to the British Government’s Legacy Bill. 

The Mid Ulster MLA reiterated the call for a Legacy Summit to be held urgently. 

Linda Dillon said:

“Once again there is strong opposition from senior political figures across the divide in the US Congress to the British Government’s flawed Legacy Bill. 

“In a significant letter to the British Prime Minister, US Congress members have made it clear that the legislation will deny truth and justice to thousands of victims and families. 

“These concerns are shared by victims and families, human rights experts, churches, the Irish Government, the UN, the European Union and all the political parties on this island.

“This is a cruel and callous attempt to slam the door on families’ efforts to get justice through the courts and to let British state forces who killed Irish citizens off the hook.

“I want to reiterate the call for an urgent summit, that includes the British and Irish governments and political parties on legacy so that we can work together to reach an agreed way forward, like the Stormont House Agreement of 2014. 

“The British Government should stop the passage of its Legacy Bill, create the space for dialogue and convene the summit urgently.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Deirdre Hargey has paid tribute to Professor Eileen Evason and said she was a ‘champion of supporting people’. 

The former minister for communities said: 

“We all have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

“Eileen Evason was a champion of that.

“She had a wealth of knowledge and deep commitment to support those in need. She helped change the lives of people for the better.

“I will fondly remember her compassion and caring nature for people.

“I worked closely with Eileen when I was minister for communities and she was a guiding light in helping us to deliver welfare support to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“She has played a massive role in making our society a fairer place, and her valued contribution will always be appreciated.”

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Sinn Féin MLAs Caoimhe Archibald and Ciara Ferguson have called on local departments to work with groups delivering European Social Fund (ESF) projects. 

 

Speaking after writing to Permanent Secretaries of local departments, Caoimhe Archibald said:

 

Caoimhe Archibald said:

 

"The British government has failed to fully replace lost EU funds and now because of delays in its new Shared Prosperity Fund, local projects are facing a cliff-edge at the end of March.

 

"We have urged local Permanent Secretaries to work with groups now on extending existing funding for a year on a pro-rata basis.

 

"While the Executive can’t be expected to replace lost ESF funds it can continue to use its match funding for ESF-type programmes, so this period should be used to develop a longer-term scheme.

 

Ciara Ferguson added: 

 

"Groups and organisations delivering ESF projects support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and create jobs. 

 

"Sinn Féin has consistently raised concerns on the loss of EU funding and will continue to challenge the British government to fulfil its commitment to replace lost EU funding.

 

"While permanent secretaries should take this action, we need parties back around the Executive table and ministers in place working together now to support these groups.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said health workers are crying out for an Executive to tackle the crisis facing our health and social care system.

 

The party’s health spokesperson was speaking after health leaders requested a meeting with the British Secretary of State over the health crisis. 

 

Colm Gildernew said:

 

“Our health service is at crisis point and our health and social care workers are facing huge challenges and pressure on the frontline. 

 

“Many patients are laying on corridors and ambulances are stacked up at the doors of A&E because our hospitals cannot cope.  

 

“Health workers are crying out for political leadership and an Executive in place that will work to tackle waiting lists and staff shortages by hiring more doctors and nurses. 
 

“The health and social care service in the north has already suffered 12 years of chronic Tory austerity which has underfunded and undermined our public services.

 

“Nurses and health workers shouldn’t have been forced onto the streets to take strike action in the freezing cold for fair pay and conditions.

 

“Sinn Féin is ready to form an Executive. The DUP should end its blockade and get back to work with the rest of us around the Executive table to start to fix the health service.” 

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Sinn Féin Leas-Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has expressed condolences at the death of Professor Eileen Evason.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“I am deeply saddened to learn that Professor Eileen Evason has passed away and my immediate thoughts are with her family and friends at this very difficult time.

“Eileen made a huge contribution to protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our society and providing the Executive with invaluable guidance on welfare supports.

“A lifelong campaigner on rights and women’s issues, Eileen was passionate about addressing the huge challenges facing people in our communities.

“A key focus of Eileen’s work was on tackling poverty and ensuring workers and families have maximum support and recognising that much can be achieved when people work together.

“She will be missed by all. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has announced that his party will bring forward a motion to the Dáil next week demanding that government immediately halt Coillte’s  proposed joint venture with investment fund Gresham House.

Speaking today, Teachta Carthy said:

“A good forestry strategy is one that delivers for the environment, for the economy and for local communities. Currently, none are being served.

“If we fail on forestry, then we will fail on Climate Action. And, this government is drastically failing.

“Government has committed to annual targets of 8,000 hectares of afforestation. But under the current Fianna Fáil Minister and a Green Party Minister of State, afforestation rates are less than a third of those targets and the crisis is getting worse.

“The proposed Coillte joint venture with Gresham House has caused widespread concern among environmentalists, farmers, the forestry sector and local communities. The venture is not about Climate, it’s not even about tree-planting. For Gresham House, this venture is simply about corporate profit. 

“The funds delivered through the venture will be solely for the purpose of purchasing agricultural land that farmers could plant on themselves if government delivered a workable regulatory framework.

“The Ministers for Agriculture and Public Expenditure are the shareholders, on behalf of the Irish people, of Coillte. They can, and they should, instruct Coillte to immediately stall this plan – Sinn Féin’s motion will give those Ministers a Dáil mandate to do just that.

“Our motion will also address the underlying issues that have led to the collapse of afforestation by directing government to publish a new forestry strategy as a matter of urgency and ensure that the new strategy prioritises afforestation undertaken by local communities, farmers, landowners and public bodies above investment management ventures.

“The Sinn Féin motion will provide all TDs with the opportunity to support our rural communities, stop Coillte’s proposed corporate land-grab, and deliver a forestry plan that will have the support of rural communities, help Ireland meet our Climate Action objectives and provide an economic benefit to local economies.”

The motion can be read here.

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