Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has said the latest comments from the British prime minister on dealing with the legacy of the past are ludicrous and unacceptable.
The Mid Ulster MP said:
“It is ludicrous for the British Prime Minister to suggest that the British Crown Prosecution Service is pursuing unfair or vexatious prosecutions against former British soldiers.
“British soldiers who committed crimes in Ireland, including the murders of Irish children, cannot be above the law.
“The families of the victims of British soldiers have waited up to 50 years for truth and justice.
“That is wrong and unacceptable.
“The British government needs to end its foot-dragging and stalling and implement the mechanisms it agreed in 2014 in the Stormont House Agreement in a human rights compliant manner to deal with the legacy of the past.”
Responding to comments by DUP MP Sammy Wilson, Finance Minister Conor Murphy MLA said:
“The New Decade, New Approach document was drawn up by the two governments and presented on a take-it-or-leave it basis. Rather than prolonging the 3 year collapse of the institutions the parties rightly restored the power-sharing Executive and begun negotiations on additional funding.
“As well as seeking that additional funding I am also working to rescue promised Confidence and Supply money. That arrangement between the DUP and the Conservative party collapsed before the money was spent and the British Government is now refusing to guarantee the outstanding sums, including the money for broadband."
Sinn Féin Director of Elections Pearse Doherty has described RTÉ's decision to hold a one-to-one debate between the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as an "utter joke".
"At a time when there is much debate about the role of public service broadcasting, RTÉ has illustrated its failure to live up to its responsibilities.
"Sinn Féin has been the effective voice of opposition in the Dáil for the past four years while Fianna Fáil has propped up Fine Gael in government through their 'confidence and supply' deal.
"There is no difference between these two parties. They have the same ideology and the same outlook, and combined they received less than 50% of the votes of the Irish people at the last general election.
"They have tried to carve up government and opposition, and now they want to carve up this election by excluding Sinn Féin.
"This election is about much more than these two parties and the media have a responsibility to make sure that all voices are heard.
"By excluding Sinn Féin, RTÉ is facilitating the gameplan of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
"RTÉ's decision is an utter joke."
Former Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has confessed to being “emotional” at the prospect of stepping back as a TD for Louth.
Gerry Adams was addressing a party meeting in Dundalk where he briefed activists on the successful negotiations to restore the political institutions in the North.
Gerry Adams said:
“As my term as a TD for Louth comes to an end, I have to confess to being emotional about departing after serving the people of this constituency for nine years.
"I am deeply indebted to the citizens who elected me in 2011 and again in 2016 with Imelda Munster.
"I want to thank all of them and also my comrades in Sinn Féin.
"Throughout my nine years in Louth, my endeavour was to keep a national focus while delivering locally.
"This included developing alternatives to Brexit, advancing the national cause, co-operating with neighbouring border counties and campaigning for projects like Narrow Water Bridge which as recently as last week we succeeded in getting into the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement, which enabled the re-establishment of the power sharing government at Stormont.
"Locally we concentrated on improving the provision of public services – particularly the provision of a Primary Care Centre in Dundalk, Mental Health services, housing provision, a new county ground for the GAA, and much more.
"Sinn Féin, along with civil society and organisations like Border Communities Against Brexit have worked hard to ensure that there will be no physical infrastructure reinforcing the border dividing Ireland.
"But there is much more work to been done to protect our economies North and South and to oppose the efforts by the British to dilute the rights agenda in the North.
"I have mixed feelings about Leinster House. Obviously Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have a common agenda of outright hostility to Sinn Féin because we are United Irelanders and because of our commitment to equality, fairness and our core republican values.
"However, in the last term they took this to the extreme of turning Leinster House into a Do Nothing Dáil.
"The partnership between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael smothered and limited the potential for real solutions to the crises in housing and the health service. It also undermined the potential for advancing the search for Irish Unity in line with the Good Friday Agreement.
"Votes against the government were rendered meaningless as they were ignored by the Taoiseach with the active support of the Fianna Fáil leader.
"I also want to thank everyone who works in Teach Laighean to provide services and support for Oireachtas members.
"The catering staff, the ushers, the civil servants and cleaners, the librarians and research staff, An Garda Síochána and everyone else who ensure that the place functions, have been wonderful to work with.
"So too have my comrades in Sinn Féin’s Oireachtas team led by Mary Lou. I wish them well.
"I welcome the calling of the election and the opportunity for Sinn Féin to persuade voters to elect an even stronger Sinn Féin team. Sinn Féin has strong, costed policies to end the crisis in housing and health, provide childcare, tackle climate change and poverty, and give families and workers a break.
"We also have a clear strategy to win support for Irish Unity. This has been enhanced by the establishment of the power sharing government in the North and I am pleased to have been part of that endeavour.
"If we had listened to the propaganda from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil the durable basis for the Assembly would not have been secured.
"So there is a lot to be done. In Louth, Sinn Féin is standing two excellent candidates – Imelda Munster and Ruairí Ó Murchú - who in their time on Louth County Council, and in Imelda’s time in the Dáil, have proven to be very effective public representatives. I appeal to voters of Louth to return them both.
"I appeal to voters across the state to return an even stronger Sinn Féin team.
"On February 8th, the electorate will have the opportunity to vote for fairness and decency and for Irish Unity and to end the tweedledee and tweedledum politics of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has called for an immediate investigation to be launched by both Dublin City Council and Minister Murphy’s Department to find out how a homeless man in his tent was “removed by an industrial vehicle” in Dublin yesterday and suffered serious injuries.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“The incident as reported by the media that occurred yesterday lunch time is shocking, and I do not understand how it could have happened.
“How does a homeless man sleeping in a tent along the canal end up being swept away and seriously injured by an industrial vehicle?
“Eoghan Murphy is still the Minister for Housing and he, along with Dublin City Council, need to launch an immediate investigation into how such a horrific incident occurred in broad daylight, along a busy canal.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers' Rights Maurice Quinlivan has hit out at a "false and misleading" claim by Fine Gael Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty that she has "ensured that tips in our hospitality sector are paid to employees and not withheld".
Speaking in response to this claim which was made by the Minister in an election leaflet being distributed in her constituency, Maurice Quinlivan said;
"This is the most outlandish of claims by Minister Doherty. Not only has Minister Doherty not ensured tips are paid to employees, she actively blocked a Sinn Féin Bill which would have done just that.
"Our Bill, which would have made it illegal for employers to withhold tips had passed all stages in the Seanad before being blocked by Minister Doherty via a money message. Far from ensuring tips are paid to employees, Minister Doherty has sided with employers to oppose such legislation and the Dáil and Seanad record shows this to be true.
"I know the election is now on and politicians will try and claim credit for all sorts of things, but for the Minister to claim this is simply outrageous. It flies in the face of the facts. The Minister has not passed any Bill in this regard and needs to publicly withdraw this statement.
"I understand that trade unions who have been campaigning for legal protection of tips are planning to take concrete action to highlight this blatant untruth in the Ministers Constituency."
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson met with the EU's lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Strasbourg today to discuss Brexit and citizens rights ahead of the British exit from the EU on January 31st.
Martina Anderson said:
"I met today with the EU's lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier to discuss Brexit, citizens’ rights and the need for the interests of Ireland and its people to be taken into account in the future relationship negotiations.
"I welcomed the confirmation from Michel Barnier that he will visit Belfast and Dublin before January 31.
"The is the last session in Strasbourg there will be a voice from the north.
"At today's meeting we also discussed future constitutional change and the pathway for the north to re-enter the EU through a referendum on Irish unity as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement."
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has met with Irish American political leaders and officials from the US administration to update them on the restoration of the Executive and the challenges presented by Brexit.
The North Belfast MP said:
“On Tuesday I met with senior political representatives and members of the US administration in Washington DC.
“I met with the US National Security Council at The White House and representatives of the US State Department to discuss the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document and the establishment of the new Executive at Stormont.
“We also discussed the British government’s Brexit plans and their negative implications for Ireland, north and south.
“I then met with Congressman Richie Neal who hosted members of the Friends of Ireland Committee and the ad hoc committee on Brexit to update them on the latest political developments and the growing support for Irish unity across Ireland.
“We value the ongoing support of Irish America and key figures on Capitol Hill, and I will continue to engage with our friends and supporters in New York in the coming days.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has called for the release of Catalan political prisoners after meeting with the families of prisoners in Westminster.
The West Belfast MP said:
"I met today with Txell Bonnet, partner of Catalan political prisoner, Jordi Cuixart, to discuss his ongoing imprisonment and to reiterate our call for his release and the release of all political prisoners.
"He has been imprisoned since October 2017 and has been given a lengthy prison sentence.
"I also met with campaigners from Òmnium Cultural, Catalonia's largest cultural movement, of which Jordi Cuixart was president, and members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia.
"The continued detention of pro-independence Catalan activists is an affront to democracy and has rightly been challenged by international human rights organisations.
"The Spanish authorities must act to release all remaining Catalan political prisoners."
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has been appointed the Chair of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs committee.
Speaking on the appointment, Declan McAleer said:
“I am honoured to have been elected as the chair of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs committee.
“I have a proven track record in advancing rural development during my time in the Assembly, having previously participated on the committees for both Agriculture and Infrastructure.
“There are undoubtedly many challenges facing the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, but there are also great opportunities.
“In the immediate future Brexit is due to come into effect. This poses serious challenges for rural farmers, businesses and communities; I am committed to using my new role as chair of the committee to protect the interests of our farm families and rural communities.
“Other priorities that I will work to is the implementation of a new agriculture and rural strategy, the inclusion of rural issues in the Programme for Government, the restoration of the Areas of Natural Constraint scheme and the release of the de minimis funding for Sperrins farmers devastated by the 2017 floods.
“I will also work to ensure that the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation initiative and other anti-poverty measures in the department are protected and exert influence to ensure that Project Stratum targets the many broadband ‘not-spots’ in rural areas.
“We are also facing a climate breakdown and a biodiversity crisis and I will also work to ensure that the department acts in a way that recognises the scale of the crises we all face. I will work to ensure that farmers are treated as part of the solution and not part of the problem.
“Sinn Féin will continue to work for a regionally balanced Executive which adequately invests in our rural communities and protects their interests in Government."
NOTE TO EDITORS: DECLAN MCALEER BIO
Declan is married to Geraldine and they have three children, Tárlach, Ríoghnach and Donnchadh.
He joined Sinn Féin as a teenager and is the current spokesperson on Transport and Infrastructure.
Declan has a particular interest in rural development and he has sat on the DARD, DRD and Standard and Privileges committees at Stormont.
He was co-opted into the Assembly in place of Pat Doherty when Sinn Féin implemented the policy which phased out dual mandates.
Declan was first elected to Omagh District Council in 2005, holding on to a seat previously held by his late father, Barney.
He was Chairman of Omagh District Council from 2010-2011 and previously held the position of chair of the Council’s Planning committee and Development committee.
Declan is a qualified Lecturer in Psychology and has taught in Omagh College and in Dean Maguirc College, Carrickmore.
He is also a member of the board of Governors of two local schools and was a member of the Western Education and Library Board for 6 years.
Declan was previously employed as a Political Advisor to Pat Doherty MP and has been involved in bringing forward a number of key strategic projects in the constituency, including lobbying for the transfer of the vacated military grounds at Lisanelly for use as a shared educational campus and securing progress on the A5 dual carriageway.
He is Chairperson of Loughmacrory Community Development Association and a member of Loughmacrory GFC.
Newly appointed Chair of the Health Committee, Sinn Féin's Colm Gildernew MLA, has welcomed today’s announcement that Health and Social Care workers will receive pay parity and that a costed implementation plan for safe staffing will be delivered by the Department of Health.
Speaking following the announcement, Colm Gildernew said:
“I am delighted that health and social care workers in the North will achieve pay parity.
"Health workers are the backbone of our health and social care system.
“People working at all levels of the health service consistently deliver high-quality and compassionate care in extremely difficult situations.
“It is unfortunate that over recent months our health workers have been left with no option but to strike and I commend the work of Trade Unions who have stood up for pay justice for HSC workers and safe staffing levels.
“I also welcome the commitment from the Health Minister to produce a costed implementation plan for safe staffing levels in the near future.
"This must be done in close cooperation with the health trade unions.
“There is an onus on the British Government to deliver upon their commitment to provide the necessary finances.
“Sinn Féin will continue to support our health staff in the time ahead and hold the Minister and the Department of Health to account to ensure these commitments are lived up to.”
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has welcomed the announcement of investment of up to £45 million for 18 schools announced today.
The Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson said:
“This is welcome news for the 18 schools which have been successful in the School Enhancement Programme announced today by the Minister.
“This programme was established to fund building and improvement works at schools in order to provide the best possible accommodation for pupils.
“Projects valued at between £500,000 and £4 million can be approved so it has made a massive difference to the schools estate over recent years.
“I am particularly delighted that Holy Child PS in Derry has been included this announcement to allow their case for much-needed improvements to move forward.
“After visiting the school, I met with CCMS to help ensure that Holy Child PS were included in the School Enhancement Programme.
“For the Executive to deliver on commitments to Education, the British Government needs to live up to commitments made in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Economy and Climate Change, Caoimhe Archibald, has today been appointed as Chair of the Economy Committee.
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald MLA has said:
"I am delighted to have been appointed Chairperson of the Committee for the Economy.
"Brexit is a very challenging time for our economy, for families and businesses across the north.
"Facing this uncertainty, and in view of the historic challenge to prevent climate breakdown, we must take meaningful action to create a fairer and zero carbon economy through a just transition.
"In September last year Sinn Féin launched our 'Inclusive Growth Strategy', outlining our vision to transform our local economy.
"We outlined four key priorities in our economic strategy: to promote secure jobs that pay the Living Wage, to pursue regional equality and rebalance economic activity towards deprived regions, to decarbonise the economy through a just transition, and to drive productivity increases.To achieve these objectives, we need a Green New Deal.
"We need to see investment in green infrastructure and skills to create ‘green-collar’ jobs. We must promote green social enterprises and drive green research and innovation in local universities.
"But for the potential of a Green New Deal to be fully realised it must be island-wide, to unleash the potential of the all-Ireland economy.
"This is equally important in the context of Brexit, which will create profound economic challenges whatever shape it takes.
"Greater all-Ireland integration can prevent economic damage and mitigate the impact of Brexit, only a new and United Ireland can overcome the damage of Brexit.
"I am looking forward to working with the new Minster and the committee to address these challenges and to build a stronger, fairer and more regionally balanced economy."
NOTE FOR EDITOR
Caoimhe grew up in Coleraine and was educated at Loreto College, Coleraine and Queen’s University, Belfast.
She qualified with a BSc in Molecular Biology and PhD in Molecular Mycology with a DARD studentship.
She also completed a PGDip in Management & Corporate Governance from the Ulster Business School. She has a background in agriculture research and believes very strongly in the importance of investment in R&D and SMEs to enable local businesses to compete in a global market.
Caoimhe is a political activist and was the East Derry candidate for Sinn Féin in the 2015 Westminster election, and was first elected to the Assembly in 2016, previously serving on the Committees for the Economy, and for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
Caoimhe is a keen runner and swimmer, she has been a member of her local GAA club for over 15 years. Caoimhe has been a member of Conradh na Gaeilge for 5 years and is a strong advocate for the development of Irish language and promoting access to Irish Medium education.
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has said that the Governments’ ‘Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025’ recycles an old Government commitment on tackling child poverty which they previously failed to meet.
Speaking this morning, Teachta Brady:
“This morning we see the publication of the Governments’ ‘RoadMap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025’ which we have been waiting for since 2018.
“This is not the first time that the Government have made commitments on reducing poverty. Back in 2014 as part of the National Policy Framework for Children & Young People (Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures), the Government set themselves a target of lifting 70,000 children out of consistent poverty by 2020.
“They couldn’t achieve that having given themselves 6 years to do so, yet they are now promising to meet the same target in the space of one year.
“It is the Governments’ own policy that flies in the face of tackling poverty. We see that in the reduced rates for young Jobseekers aged 18-24 and we see it in the way in which social welfare rates are set - based on nothing and instead used as a political football every year at Budget time.
“This approach looks set to continue as the Roadmap published today includes a focus on the continuation of the Working Family Payment which is being used to supplement poor pay. If workers were paid an adequate wage in the first instance, they would not need to rely on a top up from Government. Sinn Féin, in Government would introduce a Living Wage.
“The Roadmap also includes re-states a commitment to link the State Pension to the Consumer Price Index. We need to see all social welfare payments indexed to adequacy – as stakeholders have called for continuously. Sinn Féin have put forward a way to achieve this to the Minister as party policy and as legislation.
“We know from the latest Survey on Income & Living Conditions that there are over 202,000 children in this State living in poverty. The fact that the Government are two years late publishing this report shows their level of commitment on tackling one of the greatest challenges we face as a State.”
Speaking after Sinn Féin submitted its response to the Public Health Agency’s consultation on mental health and suicide prevention training Órlaithí Flynn said:
“Suicide and poor mental ill health has a huge impact on society. It can devastate communities as well as individuals and families.
"Sinn Féin argued strongly for an updated and robust suicide prevention strategy and along with the Suicide Prevention All Party Group, were able to secure its publication in September 2019.
“One of the actions from the strategy called for a training framework to be developed and last week Sinn Féin submitted our response to the consultation.”
The party’s spokesperson for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention added:
“The mental health crisis and high rates of suicide require more than supportive words and short-term headlines but tangible actions and real outcomes.
“We need to look at how we can prevent, intervene earlier and support our existing services which are already under so much pressure.
"Sinn Féin has consistently called for emotional resilience to be a key part of the school curriculum to ensure better services and support for all our young people. We have also called for suicide prevention and mental health training to be made available to a broader range of people and organisations.
"A greater focus on mental health and suicide prevention is needed and that is recognised in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal.
“It is important that the priorities, and the necessary funding to achieve them, are delivered."
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on Minister Murphy and the Minister of State John Paul Phelan to immediately issue written guidance to local authorities advising them to automatically transfer all new 2019/20 voter registrations onto the supplementary register is the election is to be held before the 15th of February.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Yesterday I wrote to the Department of Housing to ask if they intend to issue written guidance to all Local Authorities on the status of those individuals who have registered to vote since February 2019 but, if the election is held before the 15th of February, will not be included in the full register.
“There appears to be some confusion in Local Authorities over whether these voters can automatically be placed on the supplementary register by the Council or if they have to re-apply to go on the supplementary register.
“The Department must issue clear guidance on this matter to ensure that no person is denied the right to vote because Varadkar decides to call an earlier than expected general election.
“We saw during the by-elections that voter turnout was down, the government shouldn’t seek to further disenfranchise potential voters by not including them on the supplementary register.”
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Bay North Denise Mitchell has expressed her alarm at the discovery of a dismembered body in Moatview Gardens last night.
Teachta Mitchell said that this event, which is extremely distressing for local residents, highlights the needs for greater Garda resources to combat the drug crime that is ravaging the area.
Teachta Mitchell, who is from Coolock, said:
“The discovery of a dismembered body in Moatview is a horrific thing for local residents to experience. My thoughts are with the teenagers who made this terrible discovery on the green outside their homes last night and local residents who are shocked and terrified that this could happen on their doorsteps.
“The people of Coolock and the wider Dublin Bay North area have been subjected to fear and intimidation by these drug gangs for too long, but this is a particularly grisly chapter.
“This incident really drives home the need for greater Garda resources in the area. The Gardaí in Coolock station are overstretched as it is. We need to see the taskforce that I was calling for last year to be established. How many more deaths and brutal incidents such as this must be inflicted upon local residents until they get the help they need?
“I would call on anyone with information about what happened last night to contact Coolock Garda Station on 01 6664200.”
Matt Carthy confirms he will run in General Election
Co Monaghan man, Matt Carthy, has confirmed that he will seek the Sinn Féin nomination to contest the upcoming General Election in the Cavan Monaghan constituency. Carthy’s name will go before a reconvened constituency convention will take place this coming Thursday evening in the Hotel Errigal, Cootehill.
Speaking today Matt Carthy said:
“Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has been an outstanding representative for Cavan Monaghan and a pivotal and important leader within Sinn Féin, especially since his election to the Dáil in 1997. In the first instance I want to ensure that his legacy of hard work and dedication to the people of this constituency is maintained following his planned retirement from elected office.
“But, I also believe that further delivery for these counties requires strengthened republican representation in Leinster House and that requires two Sinn Féin TDs to be returned. Previously myself and Pauline Tully were selected as candidates but that convention lapsed when Fianna Fáil refused to force an election and we were instead subjected to two more years of government failures.
“I am hopeful that this Thursday Sinn Féin members will re-affirm their previous decision to allow Pauline & I to contest the General Election to win two seats.
“I am a proud Monaghan man - I can think of no greater honour than to be elected to the Dáil by the people of my home constituency.
“Monaghan is a great county, but we have been let down by successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments. Those parties have failed miserably: they have decimated our hospital and local health services, they have refused to provide the necessary investment in jobs and infrastructure and they have allowed our families to struggle while they play their games in the Dáil without adopting the policies necessary to address the crises they have created in our public services and in rural communities. Our families are being ripped off with colossal insurance costs, high rents and mortgages, childcare costs and stealth charges.
“I believe that there is a better way - that Sinn Féin in government can and will have the courage to put families and communities before insurance companies, bankers and vulture funds. That Cavan Monaghan can receive our fair share of investment in public services, in health services, in job creation so that our young people don’t constantly have to leave their home communities in search of employment.
“I have loved being a member of the European Parliament. I hope my record speaks for itself in terms of representation and delivery both at EU level and within each of the counties in my constituency. I am especially proud of my work in bringing the voice of the Irish people to the heart of the Brexit negotiations.
“But, these are important times. For the last four years we have had a Fine Gael government, propped up by Fianna Fáil, that hasn’t worked for the Irish people. The government expended more energy defending their decision to commemorate the RIC than they have in listening to the needs of our communities.
“I want to be part of that team that delivers a better, fairer, united Ireland.
“Of course, it will be the voters who will decide whether I can play that role. Over the coming weeks I will be asking the people of Monaghan to allow me to continue the great work of Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and to build on his legacy.
“I want to be one of two Sinn Féin TDs, alongside Pauline Tully, representing the great communities of Cavan Monaghan and North Meath, and I will leave no stone unturned in that bid.
“From my period as a councillor, as a MEP and as a community activist I believe I have proven myself to be a hard worker with the experience, energy and commitment that will allow the voters of Cavan Monaghan to entrust me with the mandate to now represent them in Leinster House”.
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said proposed changes to how the British government conducts referenda are totally at odds with the Good Friday Agreement.
The South Down MP said:
"Proposed plans to introduce a bill to change how referenda are held by introducing a voter turnout threshold, a weighted majority and a requirement for the vote to be approved by a majority in the British parliament are anti-democratic.
"This bill has been introduced from the House of Lords and, as such, is unlikely to go very far but it is concerning.
"It highlights the arrogance of the British political system where a member of an unelected body is trying to ride roughshod over democracy.
"This would be totally at odds with the Good Friday Agreement and its provision for a referendum on Irish unity.
"The Irish government, as a co-guarantor of that Agreement need to challenge the British government on this proposal to undermine the democratic will of the people."