The first Easter Lily launch was hosted by Sinn Féin Mayor Brenda Chivers in the Causeway Coast and Glens Council last night.
Speaking at the event which was attended by Sinn Féin’s council candidates, MLAs, as well as republican activists and family members of the patriot dead from the area, Brenda Chivers said:
"It was an honour to host the first Lily launch in the Causeway Coast and Glens Council.
"Easter is the most important date in the Republican calendar; it is a time when we gather right across Ireland and beyond, to remember and commemorate those men and women, throughout the generations, who gave their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom and independence.
“The 1916 Proclamation remains the mission statement for Irish republicans today.
“It is a freedom charter for all the people of this island which guarantees religious and civil liberty and promotes equal rights and opportunities for all citizens.
“2019 despite the political challenges of Brexit also presents an opportunity to see how we can make the United, independent Ireland envisaged in 1916 a reality.
“There was never a better time to plan and deliver on an all-Ireland basis.
“Sinn Féin is committed to safeguarding the rights enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, including the commitment to parity of esteem and citizenship.
“Sinn Féin want a reconciled and united Ireland where everyone's rights and identity are respected.
“The upcoming local government elections are a chance for the people of the Causeway Coast and Glens to help return a stronger Sinn Féin team to forward the progressive politics of equality, rights and Irish unity.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has written to Jim Daly TD, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, for more information on the announcement today that “Louth/Meath Mental Health Services are currently looking at a new town centre location in Dundalk with a view to providing improved CAMHS to North Louth. The HSE is hopeful that this will come on stream toward the end of the year.”
Teachta Adams said:
“This is the latest of a long list of unfulfilled promises. The Minister and the HSE need to provide greater clarity about this latest proposed new arrangement.”
The announcement came in response to a Topical Issues question in the Dáil on Wednesday evening from Teachta Adams in which the Louth TD criticised the current state of CAMHS in North Louth and condemned the government’s failure to plan for the construction of a Primary Care Centre for the North Louth region.
Speaking in the Dáil, Gerry Adams said:
“There has been a consistent failure by the government to deliver adequate and effective community mental health services in North Louth, in particular Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
“13 years after the publication of ‘A Vision for Change,’ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are in crisis in my constituency.
“Figures released last week show that 345 young people in CHO 8, which covers Louth, are waiting for CAMHS services. Of these, over one third – 140 – have been waiting for more than three months. Other figures released to my colleague Louise O’Reilly show that the staffing deficit in CAMHS needs at least €40 million just to address existing staff shortages.
“Today, CHO 8 only has just over half (54 per cent) of the number of staff which ‘Vision for Change’ said was necessary. Currently, this area does not have a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist; five Senior Medical Social Workers; two Senior psychologists and a range of other senior positions are unfilled.
“This means that hundreds of children and young people in Louth are not receiving the mental health supports they need within the appropriate timeframes.
“13 years ago under ‘A Vision for Change’, Louth mental health services were allocated additional staff. However, there was no building in North Louth for them to operate out of. Consequently, we have people from the North of the County, Carlingford, Omeath, Faughart, Shelagh, Dundalk, Dromiskin, and many other places, having to travel to Ardee or Drogheda to access community mental health services.
“This places an unfair burden of travel on vulnerable individuals and their families. Community services should be delivered in the community.
“In August 2018, when I asked about the lack of suitable premises, I was told that community mental health services for North Louth were to be provided within a new Primary Care Centre located in Dundalk. This was first advertised in 2008. In November 2016, I was advised in a PQ response that it was hoped the Operational Lease Process for the Primary Care Centre should be completed in the first quarter of 2017.
“Last August, the HSE stated that a planning application for the Primary Care Centre would be submitted by the end of 2018; that work would commence in 2019 and the centre would be opened early in 2020.
“None of these deadlines have or will be met. Dundalk Primary Care Centre did not even feature on a list of centres at advanced planning provided to Deputy Louise O’Reilly three weeks ago. This is an intolerable situation. The government is failing the citizens of Louth.”
Cancelled vote on vulture Directive makes Sinn Féin MEPs’ presence in Parliament more necessary than ever – Carthy
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the fact that the vote on the EU’s Directive on non-performing loans scheduled for the final plenary session in Strasbourg this week has been cancelled. This means that the vote will not be voted on by the European Parliament during this mandate and will need to be revisited by the incoming Parliament. Carthy explained that his actions significantly contributed to the delay of the vote.
He said: “Sinn Féin have led the way in opposing the EU's proposed Directive on non-performing loans, which will give free rein to vulture funds and debt collectors across the EU.
“There are two key reasons why this vote has been postponed and will now be dealt with by the incoming Parliament. The first is the fact that I initiated the one limited procedural mechanism available to me, and was supported in this by the Greens, in forcing the postponement of the vote and inter-institutional negotiations on the Regulation part of this package in December. This meant the adoption of the Regulation was postponed by several months and the whole process was delayed.
“The second reason the vote on the Directive is being postponed is because the social-democrats clearly fear the verdict of their constituents in the European elections if they endorse such an appalling piece of legislation before the vote.
“It is my firm view that this proposed Directive needs to be withdrawn. It was proposed on the basis of an impact assessment that took absolutely no regard of the rights of EU citizens such as the right to housing assistance under the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
“It will lead to more evictions, more harassment of homeowners by debt collectors, and more housing stress and homelessness. It is grossly unfair because it puts the blame and the punishment for the 2008 crisis on the shoulders of ordinary families and homeowners instead of the financial institutions that caused the crisis.
“The process by which this package – the Regulation and Directive – have been dealt with in the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee has been extremely disappointing, with the two largest groups, the EPP and S&D, colluding to prevent the smaller groups from having a meaningful say in shaping the reports. It has been an appalling and anti-democratic approach to such a crucial proposal – another reason why I welcome the cancellation of the vote.
“Now that the Parliament cannot adopt its position on this file until the incoming mandate, I will continue to work with consumer protection groups and housing campaigners in the coming months to call for the total withdrawal of this extremely damaging proposal.
“This makes the return of the strongest team of Sinn Féin MEPs to the European Parliament in the elections in May all the more important for the Irish people.” ENDS
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Imelda Munster has hit out at the government over their continued underfunding of Housing Adaptation Grants for older people and people with a disability in Co. Louth, despite the fact that there are currently 460 applications outstanding.
Deputy Munster said it was a “damning indictment” of the previous Labour and Fine Gael government’s decision to remove long stay and respite beds from the Cottage Hospital, as the government is now not making adequate provision for people to live independently in their own homes.
Deputy Munster said:
“Louth County Council are currently dealing with 460 applications for Housing Adaptation Grants. This includes 138 rollovers from last year that they could not process because of lack of funding.
“76 of these were deemed to be highest priority.
“Louth County Council recently received this year’s funding allocation, and it is totally inadequate.
“The excuse given by Labour and Fine Gael when they removed long stay and respite beds for the Cottage Hospital was that they would allow older people and people living with disabilities to live independently at home with the supports they need.
“These waiting lists prove otherwise.
“Seriously ill patients cannot get basics like wet rooms, or stair-lifts.
“The government must increase this funding to allow people to live with dignity in their own homes, with supports appropriate to their needs. This is the responsibility of government.
“The government’s response yesterday was wholly inadequate. It’s simply not good enough, given the dire need for housing adaptations for people who are seriously ill.
“It’s hypocritical of government to say that they want to support independent living for older people, and yet refuse to adequately fund the very basics, such as wet rooms or stair-lifts to enable people to do exactly that.”
Sinn Féin TD and member of the Public Accounts Committee David Cullinane said this morning that the HSE has more questions to answer over the review into the costs of the National Children’s Hospital.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“Last November, the HSE sought specialist high-level input from a range of health construction and procurement specialists, including PwC.
“The HSE then asked PwC to review the process in a report that has cost the Irish state over half a million euro.
“There is a clear conflict of interest by the HSE here.
“The analysis that PwC provided in November was, in the HSE’s own words, high-level and specialist. This was information that was relied upon by government in making its decision.
“To then ask those who contributed to the process to review said process is a clear corruption of the review process.
“The HSE needs to appear before the Public Accounts Committee and provide answers as to why it decided to go down this road.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill MLA has said Irish unity is now a real prospect and encouraged everyone to take part in the discussion on shaping a new Ireland.
Michelle O'Neill said:
“Continued divisions on the island of Ireland in 2019 are becoming ever less tenable in the face of national and international events.
“Brexit as well as other political and societal changes, will continue to drive events towards the logic of Irish unity.
“The prospect of a return to a hard border in Ireland has horrified the vast majority of people and is ensuring a determination that his country should move forward rather than back.
“It is increasingly clear that Partition is a huge obstacle to building a modern, open and forward-looking society with a dynamic economy.
“I welcome new and welcome public conversation is now underway about Ireland’s constitutional future post-Brexit.
“The Good Friday Agreement provides a democratic resolution to the problems caused to Ireland by Brexit - a democratic referendum on Irish reunification.
“A United Ireland is no longer a long-term aim and a referendum on Irish unity is now a very real prospect.
“Sinn Féin is campaigning for a referendum and this week, in advance of Easter we are drawing attention to the fact that it’s Time for Unity.
“We want as many people as possible to begin discussing how we share this island as the future unfolds.
“As part of raising awareness around this extremely important issue, we will holding a series of events to promote Irish unity.
“I hope this goes some way to engaging more people on the issue, so that together we can build a United Ireland fit for all our people.”
Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has hit out at the decision by the British state to keep the files on the British army killing of 14-year-old Julie Livingstone sealed until 2064.
Fourteen-year-old Julie Livingstone was shot in the head by a plastic bullet fired by a British army vehicle when she was returning from a local shop in Lenadoon on 12 May 1981.
The West Belfast MLA said:
“It is unacceptable that British state files relating to the killing of 14-year-old Julie Livingstone have been sealed for a further 45 years.
“The family of Julie Livingstone have been waiting almost 40 years for truth and justice so this decision to seal the files on her killing is callous in the extreme.
“I am calling on the British Secretary of State and the British Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to immediately release the files so Julie Livingstone’s family can get answers.
“The British government needs to end its stalling tactics on the implementation of the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House five years ago.
“Justice delayed is justice denied.”
A group of cross-party TDs from Limerick and the Mid-West region today wrote to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, over the ongoing overcrowding crisis at University Hospital Limerick.
Their action comes after the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation recently briefed Limerick and Mid-West TDs on the current overcrowding crisis at the hospital, which saw 81 patients on trolleys on a single day in recent weeks, the highest daily number ever recorded at an Irish hospital.
Speaking from Leinster House today, Maurice Quinlivan TD said;
“I am pleased local TDs from Limerick and the Mid-West region were able to come together to send this important letter to the Minister for Health outlining our serious concern at the current conditions in UHL, and asking the Minister to take immediate action to ensure the safety of patients and staff at the hospital.
“The signatories to this letter represent the constituencies of Limerick City, Limerick County, Clare and Tipperary, and the cross-party nature of it indicates the widespread concern from all corners about the conditions in University Hospital Limerick.
“Last week the INMO briefed us on the appalling conditions facing patients and staff at UHL. The INMO described extremely worrying conditions and explained how difficult it is for sick patients to be treated, and described the huge stress staff are under at the hospital.
"’Chaotic and out of control’, ‘soul destroying’, ‘a total disregard for staff by management’ and ‘patients waiting up to 200 hours in the Emergency Department’ were some of the incredibly worrying statements we heard from nurses at the briefing.
“Many of the local TDs at the briefing were of the opinion we should write to Minster Harris immediately to express our deep concern, and ask for action be taken immediately.
“This letter specifically asks the Minister for Health to immediately appoint appropriate external expertise to examine;
1.Clinical risk and review the standards of governance and performance within the hospital. This must be done by an external, preferably international clinical expert.
2.Failure to comply with national agreements, collective agreements and good IR practice with regards to all employee relations and HR matters within the hospital.
“Urgent action is needed, as it is only a matter of time before a serious incident occurs with this level of overcrowding.
“The Minister must intervene directly in this situation.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will host a public meeting in Ballycastle on Friday.
Martina Anderson said:
“As part of a series of public engagements on Brexit across the north, I will host a public meeting in Ballycastle this Friday focusing on the impact of Brexit.
“We are now at a crucial stage of Brexit and it is essential the EU27 and Irish government stand firm to ensure the interests of Ireland are protected. The Backstop remains the bottom line in order to do that.
“Tory Brexiteers and their allies appear intent on crashing us out of the EU and driving the North over a cliff against the democratically expressed wishes of the people who voted remain.
“In that scenario the people of the north should be given the opportunity to have their say on their own future in line with the Good Friday Agreement through a referendum on Irish unity.
“The public meeting will be held in The Marine Hotel, Ballycastle, on Friday from 7pm and I would encourage as many people as possible to come along and have your say.”
ECB must disinvest from fossil fuel firms immediately - Carthy
Sinn Féin MEP for Midlands North West Matt Carthy has said the European Central Bank (ECB) and European Investment Bank (EIB) are among the worst climate polluters through their corporate sector purchasing programmes and investment decisions respectively. Carthy was speaking from Strasbourg where the GUE/NGL group launched a ‘Climate Emergency Manifesto’ today, spearheaded by his Sinn Féin colleague, Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan.
Carthy said: “For several years now I have been campaigning for full transparency of the ECB’s quantitative easing programme, and in particular its corporate sector purchasing programme (CSPP). Under the CSPP, the ECB has granted handouts of no-interest money to a range of major corporations across the EU - but the programme had happened in virtual secrecy, with the public left uninformed about which corporations are receiving these benefits, how much and under what selection criteria.
“Finally giving into public pressure in 2017 the ECB began publishing some limited information about its corporate bond purchases, revealing that some of its biggest recipients were among the worst polluters in the world, including Shell, Total and Repsol. Fossil fuel bond purchases made up as much as 68 per cent of some national central bank investments. Research has shown that the overall majority of beneficiaries of the CSPP are large and carbon-intensive multinational corporations.
“We know that Ryanair has been a major recipient of the corporate bond-purchasing programme over several years, in spite of its appalling anti-labour practices. This is also despite the fact that just last week it was named as one of the top 10 polluters in the EU - the only corporation that wasn’t a coal plant to make the top 10 list.
“The ECB has announced the end of its quantitative easing programme - but that is a deceptive description because the maturing bonds from the trillions it has spent in recent years are to be reinvested.
“As an official EU institution, the ECB is bound by the Paris Climate Agreement, and it is legally required to act in accordance with meeting its carbon emission reduction targets. It is currently blatantly violating this commitment, to the massive detriment of our environment.
“We need full transparency over the ECB’s decision-making process when reinvesting in both corporate and government bonds. This must include the immediate development of transparent and standardised criteria for the selection of beneficiaries for its programmes. Most importantly, the ECB must act now to meet its Paris agreement obligations by immediately divesting from carbon-intensive sectors and firms.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor Keith Haughian has condemned those responsible for a security alert in North Lurgan.
Cllr Haughian said:
“A security alert at a closed school in North Lurgan has led to serious disruption for local residents.“Those responsible for this alert need to explain to this community why they have disrupted their lives and put people out of their homes.
“We are liaising with the PSNI, local schools and residents and will continue to do so until this alert ends.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has welcomed the announcement that President of Ireland Michael D Higgins will attend the official opening of the new James Connolly Visitor Centre in west Belfast on Friday.
The West Belfast MP said:
"News that the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins will officially open Áras Uí Chonghaile, the new James Connolly Visitor Centre on the Falls Road on Friday is welcome.
"He will join the Connolly family and visitors from across the world for the opening.
"This new visitor centre is a fantastic venue celebrating the life and legacy of James Connolly and his close links to Belfast.
"Not only will it be an excellent contribution to the rich history and cultural life of west Belfast but also the entire city.
"There will be a parade along the Falls Road on Friday leading to Áras Uí Chonghaile for the official opening and I would encourage as many people as possible to take part."
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said that serious questions remain unanswered with respect to the fiasco of the National Broadband Plan.
Teachta McDonald criticised the Taoiseach’s “spin and excuses as the Broadband Plan descends into farce.”
The Dublin Central TD said:
“People in rural Ireland have been left completely in the dark and without clarity as to when they will have access to high-speed broadband.
“They now have to listen to the Taoiseach using Brexit as an excuse as to why he won’t give them any answers. This whole process is descending into farce and is becoming more and more reminiscent of the National Children’s Hospital debacle.
“The tendering model chosen for the Broadband Plan was supposed to ensure a competitive process but there is now just one bidder remaining, leaving the government completely exposed.
“We have no date for commencement and the commitment to deliver high-speed broadband to every home by 2020 is not going to be delivered.
“Despite the Taoiseach’s ‘personal crusade’, serious questions remain unanswered: when will we get a proper costing for the plan? When will we know whether the plan is proceeding or not? Crucially, when will people who desperately need broadband access in rural Ireland have some clarity as to what is happening and when they will finally have access?”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has described as ‘shocking and disturbing’ the 5th Interim Report by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, which was published today.
The Dublin Bay North TD said:
“The findings of this report are deeply disturbing and shocking. While the causes of deaths of children who died in Mother and Baby homes do not form part of this report, the disregard and inappropriate way in which many of these children were buried exposes a disturbing and sinister attitude from some of the religious orders towards what they termed ‘illegitimate’ children and their mothers.
“In terms of Bessborough, the clear inability of the religious order who ran that institution to provide worthwhile information or details as to where the bodies of more than 830 infants who died in their care are located is nothing short of disgraceful. The further provision of what the Commission describes as ‘inaccurate and misleading’ information by those same religious orders is deeply shameful.
“The Report also raises very serious questions about the role of local authorities in these institutions and what knowledge they had about the burial of bodies in grounds and unmarked burial sites – particularly at the Tuam institution.
“I would echo the calls of the Commission and the Minister for anybody with any information on the burial arrangements at these institutions to contact the Commission of Investigation in order to assist them in their investigation.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD today met with Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the US Congressional Delegation.
In the meeting, Speaker Pelosi reaffirmed her strong support for the Good Friday Agreement and for the protection of Irish interests in the face of Brexit.
Speaking following the meeting, the Sinn Féin President said:
“I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and the Congressional Delegation for their strong support for Ireland as Brexit looms.
“The delegation reiterated their commitment to stability and progress in our country and shared our analysis of the clear dangers that exist should there be any diminution of our rights and agreements.
“Successive US administrations were instrumental in the building of peace on our island and in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement over twenty years ago. Those who seek to undermine our agreements, our peace and our rights would do well to hear what Speaker Pelosi and colleagues have so clearly stated during their time in Ireland this week.
“Speaker Pelosi’s explicit statement that there will be no trade agreement between the US and Britain should damage be done to the GFA shows the seriousness with which this threat is being taken.
“The protection of the GFA in all its parts is the bottom line and is non-negotiable.”
Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has called for an effective anti-poverty and social inclusion policy that addresses the multiple causes, discrimination and social exclusion that lead to poverty.
Speaking at the launch of the party’s anti-poverty document, Alex Maskey said:
“There are numerous causes of poverty and deprivation - including the cruel austerity agenda imposed on people by the Tory government, underinvestment and the legacy of the past.
“Eradicating poverty is possible but it does require fresh thinking and a government which delivers improvements to people’s lives and act as an effective bulwark against the impact of Tory cuts and austerity.
“It’s time for an effective anti-poverty and social inclusion policy that addresses the causes, discrimination and social exclusion that lead to poverty, as well as the necessary financial support to deliver it.
“This document sets out firm proposals including reforming the way government departments target resources at those in need, the introduction of social tariffs to tackle fuel poverty, employability programmes, community development and the introduction of a Living wage.
“There is nothing natural or inevitable about poverty. It can and should be eradicated from society and that is Sinn Féin’s vision as outlined in the ‘Prosperity and Opportunity’ document.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Minister Michael D’Arcy must act to bring transparency on insurance premiums for small business. He said those campaigning for a fair insurance system are deeply frustrated at the lack of progress and at an actual reduction in transparency in insurance pricing. He cited insurers’ refusal to agree to notify insurance holders of claims against them as an example of this resistance to transparency from insurers.
Deputy Doherty said:
“I note the Minister today called the insurers ‘unhelpful’ in how they provide data. This is a mild description given the attitude of insurers. This is summed up best by their refusal to put in place a protocol to notify insurance holders when there is a claim against them. The Minister is now being forced to amend my Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill to achieve this. I have been in discussion with Minister D’Arcy and am happy to accept the amendments but had hoped that a more urgent approach would have been adopted.
“He has the power to work with the Central Bank to restore transparency by reintroducing the ‘Blue Book’ and Private Motor Insurance Statistics. That would be a helpful step.
“Two and half years ago, on my request, the Finance Committee published a report on insurance which focused in relentlessly on transparency as the key to tackling this crisis. Yet, two and a half years on, many small businesses still facing these massive increases are telling us that there is now less transparency, not more.
“Last week’s National Competiveness Council report on the Costs of Doing Business showed how inadequate the State’s knowledge of this problem is when it stated: ‘The Council is also constrained in terms of the availability of metrics and their impact on enterprises of different sizes and sectors, and across several important areas such as …. commercial insurance..’
“The complete lack of transparency favours only one group of people- insurers. As long as transparency is delayed, they will have an excuse to act irresponsibly and unaccountably.”
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has condemned those responsible for last night’s security alert in Rasharkin.
The North Antrim MLA was speaking after a security alert caused residents to be evacuated from their homes and two viable pipebombs were found in the village.
Phillp McGuigan said:
"Those responsible for last night’s disruption have shown complete disregard for the local area.
“I’m relieved that no one has been hurt and these lethal weapons have now being taken off the streets.
“I would urge anyone with information to bring it forward to the PSNI.”