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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said the crisis in the health service for patients and staff will only get worse in 2020 due to utter failure of this Budget.

Teachta O’Reilly said: 

“The government have committed an additional 6.3% current funding for the health service – however, this is far below the level of funding needed to deliver current services and any additional or new services.

“Sláintecare itself recommended that the current health budget needed to be increased by at least 7% per year.

“Despite the spin and the figures thrown out by the Minister for Finance, the truth is that this level funding will neither allow for additional new services and will result in the further stretching of existing services.

“There is so little for the health service in this Budget that there are not even enough measures to hide what is not there. It fails the health service, patients, staff, and it fails as a commitment to Sláintecare.

“The government have heralded the allocation of a million extra home help hours as a key measure of this Budget, however, this addition will barely clear 40% of the home support waiting list.

"Instead of going down, the waits for home support will just increase even further next year.

“Another headline measure, increasing funding to the NTPF, has been a proven failure for the past two years.

"Last year the government increased funding for the NTPF to €75 million, and what happened in real terms - outpatient waiting lists have grown by 54,000 to 569,498 while the number of patients waiting over 18 months has grown by 24,000 to 106,786.

“Furthermore, the national maternity strategy needs at least €7.5 million per year over the next 10 years to keep it on track.

"Yet, the government will not properly fund it, instead they are on about splitting a derisory €8 million between four essential and key health strategies – the National Cancer Strategy, National Maternity Strategy, National Trauma Strategy, and Vision 2020 – the National Ambulance Reform plan.

“There are no measures in the Budget to reopen closed beds in our hospitals in order to address the crisis in capacity in the health service. Indeed, there are scant measures to increase nurses and doctors in the health service.

“No wonder the Irish Hospital and Consultants Association have voted no-confidence in the Minister for Health. Indeed, the Irish Medical Organisation said that this Budget 'will not allow for any new service development while existing services will be further stretched'.

“Mark my words, the health service will not have enough money to provide necessary services next year and we will be back in the same position of collapsing services and a funding overrun.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has said that the housing crisis "will continue as Budget 2020 ignores renters, social housing applicants and those in need of affordable housing".

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“Budget 2020 is a status quo budget. Given that the status quo in housing is an escalating crisis, the budget means that the housing emergency will continue into 2020.

“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s budget ignores renters, social housing applicants and those in need of social housing.

“Just 8,500 real social housing homes will be delivered in 2020. Four years into Rebuilding Ireland and Government has still not met the key target of 10,000 real social homes recommended by the 2016 Dáil Housing and Homeless Committee Report.

“Meanwhile, the Government continues to pump taxpayers' money into subsidising social housing tenants in the private rental sector.

"The Government has committed to creating 19,000 new subsidised rental tenancies in 2020 at a cost of over €800m. 

“This will dramatically increase demand in the rental market pushing up prices and locking out an even greater number of renters not eligible for social housing support. 

“Indeed renters can feel particularly aggrieved as the Government has done nothing to reduce the cost of rents or to protect tenants from further rent increases.

“There is no additional investment in affordable rental or purchase homes above what was announced last year.

"Given that this Government has done nothing to speed up the delivery of public housing, none of these homes will be delivered until 2021 or 2022 at the earliest.

“The Help to Buy scheme isn’t helping the first-time buyers who need it most. A report by the Parliamentary Budget office supports this with over 40% those approved to date needing no help with a deposit. Yet, the Government has seen fit to spend €100m next year.

“Housing is the single biggest issue of public concern according to recent opinion polls. This Government has ignored the needs of renters, those on social housing waiting lists and those in need of affordable homes.

“Sinn Féin’s alternative housing budget would have invested an additional €1bn in public housing to deliver 17,000 social, affordable rental and affordable purchase homes and introduced a rent freeze and refundable tax credit for renters.

"This would have given workers and families a real break. Instead, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael chose to ignore these people in a budget without ambition, ideas or much needed investment.”

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Sinn Fein Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has condemned the government for once more attempting to mislead the Dáil on budget day in regards to their mental health allocation.

Teachta Buckley was responding to the announcement by government that they would be providing an additional 39 million euro to mental health services.

In reality, only 14 million euro of new money is being provided as the government withheld 25 million euro announced in last years budget.

Deputy Buckley said;

“Every year since 2016, old money is being re-announced as new money all for the purpose of a good press release and to pretend the government is serious about mental health.

"It is obviously not and it insults the patients, the families, the campaigners by trying to fool them.

"In 2018 the government announced 55 million additional money for the following year. The reality though was that in every budget since 2016, money has been promised and either partially undelivered or partially staggered to be spent in the next year.

"This is done cynically to look good while actually spending very little in a service badly under funded.

"The government withheld 25 million euro of the money announced for 2019, and now it has repackaged that money as a new investment totalling 39 million. The truth is just 14 million euro will actually be new money.

"The government has proven itself time and again to be untrustworthy on mental health spending, they have sought to mislead and to cover up this abuse of trust. The cost cannot be calculated but the pain and suffering caused by the underfunding and neglect of our services is plain to see in every community across the state.”

ENDS
 
Additional Note:

In 2018 the government announced 55 million additional money for the following year. The reality though was that in every budget since 2016, money has been promised and either partially undelivered or partially staggered to be spent in the next year. This is done cynically to look good while actually spending very little in a service badly under funded.

While total mental health spend has increased considerably in recent years most of this money has been swallowed up in pre-existing services trying to meet large increases in demand.

This has not yielded good results with waiting lists growing steadily. Young people are languishing on CAMHS lists for up to 18 months, adults are being turned away from A&E because there is no bed for them in crisis and counselling services are hopelessly inadequate to meet demand.

The government withheld 25 million euro of the money announced for 2019, and now it has repackaged that money as a new investment totalling 39 million. The truth is just 14 million euro will actually be new money.

While much of this behaviour is down to stunt politics from a government more interested in press releases than improving mental health. Some of the problem is also due to the governments abject failure to address recruitment and retention issues which has made the development of new services in many areas impossible.

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Sinn Féin’s Dublin spokesperson Denise Mitchell TD has described Budget 2020 as “all style and no substance”.

The Dublin Bay North TD said Dublin has become one of the most expensive cities in the world to have a child in and the Government seem to have no clue as to how to give families a break. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Teachta Mitchell said;

“Another year, another Fine Gael Budget that is all style and no substance. 

“The government has shown that it cannot properly budget for our vital public services or give struggling families a break.

“The good people of the Northside, who I have the honour of representing, will not be taken in by the Minister for Finance standing in this chamber and saying that things are going swimmingly and what a great job Fine Gael are doing for the country. 

“Meanwhile, the city is choking. Nearly 3,000 children are growing up in hotel rooms. Parents are at their wits end just trying to make ends meet and Fine Gael cannot bring themselves to do right by the honest, hardworking people of this country. 

“Meanwhile Fianna Fáil sit on the sidelines and offer only token opposition, as they have done for the past three years. Fianna Fáil have let down the people of Dublin just as much as their co-conspirators on the Government benches. 

“They’ll pass another Fine Gael budget that is dead set on maintaining the status quo of the haves and have nots, of the elite and the struggling. 

“A few bob to cover the astronomical cost of childcare will not convince a single family that this Government is on their side because they are not and they never have been. 

“Dublin has become one of the most expensive cities in the world to have a child in and the Government seem to have no clue as to give families a break. 

“Sinn Féin have a plan to radically transform the entire childcare sector, while Fine Gael and Minister Zappone are content to just grant another meagre concession that will be swallowed up within a year when prices just go up again. 

“There is nothing in this Budget for renters while the real winners are the landlords and those profiteering from the housing crisis, just as it has been for every Fine Gael Budget we have seen. 

“The people of Crumlin, Cabra, and Coolock are all united by the dread of a year passing and the rents going up. The Rent Pressure Zones have not worked and there is no hope on the horizon for anyone stuck in the rent trap. Not under this Government. 

“Sinn Féin would help renters by introducing an emergency freeze on rents and bringing in rent relief which would save them the equivalent of one month’s rent each year.

“Budgets are about choices and Sinn Féin choose to invest in services that will make a real difference to ordinary families by reducing the cost of living and allowing those families the benefit of knowing that a parent will not have to give up work to mind a child or children; that if that child falls sick, that there is a bed for them in a hospital and not a trolley or a never ending waiting list; that they need not panic that the next time the car has a fault or schoolbooks need buying. 

“The Budget cannot be about just getting by, it must be about ensuring people can have a decent life.

“We need to give working families a break, not talk down to them and tell them that we know best and that they are not working hard enough.

“People are working hard, harder than this government and their Fianna Fáil stooges and that’s for sure.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O'Neill will meet senior EU officials in Brussels tomorrow to call on them to remain firm to protect the north's economy from the catastrophic impacts of Brexit. 

Michelle O'Neill said:

"Today I led a Sinn Féin delegation which met with business representatives across retail, manufacturing, communications, hospitality and the food and drink industry and others concerned with the disastrous impact of Brexit on our economy. 

"The consistent message from all of the meetings is that the consequences of Brexit will be dire for the north. 

“They cannot plan for the future and are desperately worried about the prospect of job losses and economic collapse. 

"That is the reality for the economy in the north regardless of what the DUP or any other delusional Brexit cheerleaders may say. 

"This evening I will be travelling to Brussels for a series of meetings with EU diplomats. I will be making it clear to them that they have to remain firm on the need to avoid any hardening of the border, protect the Good Friday Agreement and protect our economy. 

"The north's economy cannot withstand being excluded from the customs union and the single market and that is the message we will be bringing loud and clear to the EU." 

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Responding to Budget 2020 today Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said the government has failed to give workers and families a break.
 
He said the budget is short on ideas, short on policies and short on solutions.
 
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Teachta Doherty said;
 
“This Budget could and should have given workers and families a break. It hasn’t.
 
“With the political will and the right ideas, this budget could put money back in people’s pockets and improved their access to public services.
 
“It could have begun to broaden our horizons, making sure that work pays and delivers security and the chance to plan for the future.
 
“It could have begun to build a fair tax system, making sure that those who benefit most from our economy pay their fair share – the banks, multinationals and international property investors who have enjoyed a free ride for far too long.
 
“This budget has failed to deliver on these modest demands. It is a budget short on ideas, short on policies, short on solutions.  It is a budget that lacks ambition, lacks direction, and lacks hope.
 
“This is not the budget Sinn Féin would have delivered.
 
“Sinn Féin would have would have brought forward real and deliverable solutions, putting citizens, not vested interests, at the center of our economy and at the top of our priorities.
 
“We would have tackled the rip-off costs faced by countless families – sky-high premiums, extortionate rents, eye-watering childcare costs and back to school costs.
 
“That would have raised incomes and made sure that work delivers a secure standard of living.”
 
ENDS
 
Full text of Teachta Doherty’s speech follows:
 
Introduction
 
This Budget could and should have given workers and families a break. It hasn’t.
 
Instead of giving workers and families a break, and securing Ireland’s future;
 
This Government has underestimated the economic challenge of Brexit, and has done nothing to ease the pressure on workers and families.
 
And now, on top of out-of-control rents, rip-off insurance premiums, and unaffordable childcare costs, they are faced with a hike in carbon taxes.
 
What starts today with a 6 euro increase will continue to rise, squeezing households with no alternatives.
 
They will pay the cost rather than the bankers, the insurance companies, and the vested interests that this Government and their partners in Fianna Fáil have never and will never stand up to.
 
This Budget comes at a time when our country and our people face significant challenges.
 
It is a time for big ideas, for bold policies, for solutions for ordinary people.
 
A time to reset in our economy, how it works and who it works for.
 
Tá an buiséad seo á nochtadh inniu agus dúshláin móra romhainn mar tír.
 
Is mithid go gcuirfear smaointe móra agus beartais ceannrodaíocha i bhfeidhm ionas go thig linn cuidiú a thabhairt do gnáthdaoine agus dul i ngleic leis na fadhbanna atá os a gcomhair sa lá atá inniú ann.
 
Since the economic crash a decade ago, the Irish people have carried the weight of a recovery that has been enjoyed by some, but not by all.
 
For five years this State has had the fastest growing economy in Europe.
 
But GDP only tells us part of the story.
 
A strong economy and crane-scattered skylines do not show the full picture.
 
Many in Ireland today are trapped in the present, crippled with rip-off costs and unable to plan for the future. 
 
This Government has failed to turn a growing economy into real returns for those who have built it and for those it should serve.
 
Rather than seeing incomes rise, too many have seen costs soar and their pay packets squeezed.
 
For too many, life has become unaffordable.
 
Sky-high insurance premiums, unaffordable rents, ever rising childcare costs;
 
Workers and families were looking for a break.
 
With the political will and the right ideas, this Budget could put money back in people’s pockets and improved their access to public services.
 
It could have begun to broaden our horizons;
 
Making sure that work pays and delivers security and the chance to plan for the future.
 
It could have begun to build a fair tax system, making sure that those who benefit most from our economy pay their fair share:
 
The banks, multinationals and international property investors who have enjoyed a free ride for far too long.
 
This Budget has failed to deliver on these modest demands.
 
It is a Budget short on ideas, short on policies, short on solutions.
 
It is a Budget that lacks ambition, lacks direction, and lacks hope.
 
With nothing constructive left to offer the Taoiseach has nothing to offer but cheap jibes and cynicism.
 
All the while workers and families are struggling to keep the wolf from the door.
 
Regardless of any thing he says about Sinn Féin;
 
Introducing wolves to Ireland is not as farfetched a policy for this Government as it may sound.
 
After all;
 
They introduced vultures that have bought tens of thousands of family mortgages at discount rates.
 
They have introduced child homelessness as a permanent feature of our society.
 
They have laid out the red carpet to cuckoo funds and speculators that have bought up our cities, pushed up prices and left young people and families locked out of the property market and locked in to an unaffordable rental system.
 
This is the Government’s record.
 
This Budget appears to have heeded some calls from Sinn Féin in tackling serious tax avoidance among property investors through REITs and IREFs.
 
Not least the Capital Gains exemption for properties sold when they’ve been held by REITs for three years or more.
 
In April this year, GREEN REIT, a billionaire property fund who have made a fortune from the property crisis, used the rules of the game to avoid around 100 million in tax.
 
Instead of paying commercial stamp duty at a rate of 6 percent, a sale of their properties to an international buyer at a rate of 1 percent has lost the State 67 million in revenue.
 
This measure alone would have stemmed the sell-off, 
 
And generated 36 million that would fund the provision of medical cards to over 17 thousand cancer patients for the duration of their treatment.
 
Real policies, real solutions.
 
This Government have nothing left to offer.
 
Níl aon ní fagatha ag an rialtas seo le tairiscint.
 
Public Finances
 
It has been a bad year for this Government and the public finances.
 
Despite a growing economy, the country’s debt is higher now than it was when this Government took office.
 
At the same time, the Taoiseach’s flagship tax policy lies in tatters.
 
In 2016 his party promised to abolish the Universal Social Charge.
 
A promise they have broken.
 
Last year the Taoiseach promised to deliver a 2.3 billion euro tax cut for workers paying the higher rate in every Budget over the next five years.
 
Today the Taoiseach has broken his promise.
 
It is just as well. 
 
Based on the Government’s own figures, the Taoiseach’s only big idea would have blown a hole in the public finances and created a budget deficit of more than 350 million euros next year,
 
With more borrowing and higher debt.
 
His short stint in office has been marked by bad ideas, broken promises and a reckless misuse of public resources.
 
At a time when every euro is precious for so many people;
 
Who work hard to pay rent, to cover childcare costs, and pay their bills; 
 
Fine Gael has made wasting taxpayers’ money official Government policy.
 
We have a National Broadband Plan that will see taxpayers subsidize a private consortium to the tune of 3 billion euros, for infrastructure that the State will never own.
 
We have a National Children’s Hospital that has seen costs escalate by more than 450 million euros.
 
We have found out this weekend that the Department of Health will require a 350 million euro bailout next month just to break even.
 
I only hope Minister Harris is not reshuffled to the Department of Finance any time soon, or the country could be bankrupt within a month.
 
The headline figures from the Government’s White Paper this weekend showed that the public finances are set to enjoy a budget surplus of 600 million euro for 2019.
 
The figures also reveal that this surplus has been delivered entirely by unexpected and unsustainable corporation tax receipts. 
 
Corporation tax is now the third biggest revenue raiser for the State, with nearly half of it coming from just ten companies that could each leave tomorrow.
 
If they did, what then?
 
Our tax base eroded, our public finances vulnerable, and our public services exposed to the whims of foreign multinationals.
 
Brexit
 
It is in this context Minister, that our country faces the challenges posed by Brexit.
 
The strategy of Boris Johnson and the DUP has no regard for business, workers and communities; 
 
For the consent of the people of this island, North and South.
 
There is no good Brexit, no safe landing zone for our country.
 
But no one is more at risk than those who have endured the sharp edge of partition:
 
In the North and in our border counties.
 
Is léir gurb é Éire Aontaithe agus neamhspleách an t-aon réiteach amháin ar fadhb an Bhreatimeachta.
 
The industries most affected will be small exporters, particularly those in the agri-food sector.
 
Uncertainty and the threat of customs checks will bring significant disruption to north-south supply chains.
 
Sinn Féin has supported the EU negotiating strategy with the British Government; alongside other parties across this island, to protect the Good Friday Agreement and our all-island economy.
 
And we support the Minister’s decision to deficit spend in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
 
Sinn Féin’s economic response to Brexit has based on two priorities.
 
Supporting businesses, sectors and regions that are vulnerable.
 
Stimulating the wider economy to protect jobs and livelihoods.
 
What does this mean?
 
It means increasing capital investment throughout the State by 1.3 billion, creating 5 thousand additional apprenticeships, increasing funding for Enterprise Ireland and Fáilte Ireland, and increasing the R&D tax credit for SMEs.
 
Whatever the outcome.
 
The greatly anticipated Rainy Day Fund has finished before it even started, with no money going into it from this year’s revenue.
 
The Rainy Day Fund was a badly designed policy that Sinn Féin opposed since its inception.
 
The legislation that underpinned it allowed it to be used only in exceptional circumstances or to bail out the banks, not to deal with the challenges Brexit poses.
 
I am glad that Government have today changed course and adopted the Sinn Féin position.
 
By announcing a €1.2bn potential fund Minister, you have heeded Sinn Féin’s calls about needing active fiscal support.
 
For at least a year, we have called for the Rainy Day Fund to be replaced with a 2 billion euro Stabilization Fund to support jobs, businesses and communities at risk from the disruption.
 
This is what’s needed, and the government would do right to stick to this advice.
 
I now want to say something else.
 
Brexit was always going to have an impact on this Budget, Minister.
 
But it shouldn’t have defined it.
 
You have used Brexit as cover.
 
An excuse for failure.
 
Outpatient waiting lists are at their highest since records began with over 569,000 patients waiting for a hospital appointment.
 
That was not caused by Brexit.
 
Over ten thousand citizens are homeless and average rents have increased by twenty percent since you took office.
 
That wasn’t caused by Brexit.
 
Everything and anything this Budget failed to deliver has been blamed on Brexit.
 
But the public finances can be safeguarded and the people’s priorities delivered at the same time.
 
Tax
 
The parameters of this budget were not set by Brexit.
 
They were set by you and your Government.
 
This Budget could have given workers and families a break had the right choices been made.
 
Deis ab ea an buiséad seo chun faoiseamh a thabhairt don lucht oibre agus do teaghlaigh atá ar an anás, ach cuireadh an deis sin amú.
 
I will not go through every tax measure today because time will not allow it.
 
But I will make a number of observations.
 
On the Earned Income Tax Credit we have another year where we don’t quite get there. It should have been fully equalised this year, no ifs, no buts.
 
Commercial Stamp Duty should increase, not by 1.5%, but by 4%. There are speculators making millions on property especially in this city that should be taxed more.
 
On SARP, we have to ask how discredited does a tax relief for high earners have to be before it is scrapped? The tax loophole lobby can’t believe their luck that they have got away with getting SARP extended. It should be consigned to the dustbin.
 
It is a decade since taxpayers bailed out the banks to the tune of 67 billion.
 
The Government pumped billions into AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, Anglo and Irish Nationwide.
 
It was done at great social and financial cost.
 
Today that bill stands at 42 billion;
 
With the State’s financial watchdog estimating that taxpayers will continue to pay over 1 billion every year; 
 
Simply to service the debt the banks created.
 
All the while, these banks enjoy a privileged tax break they have done nothing to deserve.
 
By being allowed to carry forward historic losses against their profits, they have been able to reduce their corporation tax bill to zero.
 
And will continue to do so for the next 20 years despite making multi-billion euro profits.
 
That is unfair and unjustified.
 
It is time to listen to Sinn Féin and end this tax break for the bailed-out banks.
 
Your friends at the Banking and Payments Federation may disagree with me Minister, but the people of this country will not.
 
Ending this tax break would alone generate an additional 175 million in revenue.
 
175 million, Minister.
 
That measure alone would pay for:
 
An increase of 5 euros to the Carers allowance and benefit,
 
And an increase of 9 euros to the Disability allowance.
 
In addition, it would have covered half the cost of an annual Back to School bonus of 140 euros to help families send their children to school.
 
These measures alone would have delivered for citizens with disabilities, prioritized the interests of our children, and given parents a break.
 
Sinn Féin would have made that choice.
 
You haven’t. You prioritized the interests of the banks instead.
 
You have FINALLY attempted to get a handle on tax avoidance exploited by property investors. But it is too little too late.
 
Indeed, by increasing the Dividend Withholding Tax to the rate of Capital Gains, at 33%, you could have raised an additional €35m.
 
Which in turn could have provided free public transport to all children up to the age of eighteen.
 
Encouraging the use of public transport and providing the alternatives needed to reduce emissions.
 
Ending the Special Assignee tax relief, which allows multinational executives to write off a third of their salary from income tax, would have raised an additional 15 million.
 
To give an example Minister, a multinational executive who moves to Dublin on a one million euro salary is able to dodge over 123 thousand euros of income tax.
 
This means that were any other worker pays 40 percent income on their salary above the standard rate band, a millionaire executive pays 28 percent.
 
How can you justify that?
 
Ending this scheme would provide for the improved pay and conditions our Defence Forces deserve;
 
And end the scandal of our defence force staff living in poverty or sleeping in cars.
 
And it would restore the weekly training allowance of 32 euros for school leavers with disabilities that the Minister for Health cynically cut last month.
 
This is not fantasy economics, Minister.
 
And it has nothing to do with Brexit.
 
These are choices Sinn Féin would have made.
 
It is the alternative Sinn Féin offers.
 
Instead of tackling the inequality in our society,
 
Instead of ensuring that those most able to shoulder the burden pay their fair share,
 
The banks, international investors and super rich;
 
You have chosen to distill your entire climate action plan into a regressive tax on households.
 
Today’s increase in carbon tax is no panacea to the climate crisis.
 
It is a box ticking exercise.
 
Taxes are implemented to serve one of two purposes, to change behavior or raise revenue.
 
Carbon tax as it stands has generated 400 million every year since 2015, without any real change in the behaviour of citizens or the policies of this Government.
 
Behavioral change can only take place when alternatives are available.
 
And alternatives require investment.
 
Investment in public transport, renewable energies and energy-efficient homes, at a level that meets the scale of the climate crisis we face.
 
And yes, that requires revenue.
 
Sinn Féin have shown how revenue can be raised through progressive taxation, closing loopholes and making   sure that those who can pay do pay their fair share.
 
Instead this Government has chosen to hike the carbon tax by 6 euros per tonne and take 90 million out of peoples’ pockets, 
 
A measure that is recognized by your own Department and the Economic and Social Research Institute to be regressive; 
 
Hitting poorer households, rural areas, and single parent families hardest.
 
It will not change their behavior. It will make them poorer.
 
Electric charging points here and there, and tokenistic increases to deeply flawed grant schemes will not cut it Minister.

This does not pass as meaningful climate action given the scale of the threat posed by climate breakdown.
 
This is a sorry answer to the Climate Crisis,
 
This is not a just transition.
 
Sinn Féin are once again putting forward effective, radical and realistic alternatives to the climate challenge.
 
This is Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s answer to the Climate Crisis.
 
Social Protection & Low Incomes
 
This is a tax that will hit low-income households and the most vulnerable in our society hardest, without offering alternatives or adequate respite.
 
Every year as the Budget approaches, these very people, our most vulnerable, who rely on social security supports, hope for an increase in their payment rate.
 
Lone parents, jobseekers, parents raising families, citizens with disabilities and carers.
 
This is because current rates are simply inadequate.
 
They do not protect households or children from poverty.
 
Had you listened to Sinn Féin, taking the political football out of this issue, and responding to need based on evidence, you would have known that.
 
The social welfare package announced by government today is less than one third of the size of the package proposed by Sinn Féin. Today’s social welfare package fails to give families, lone parents, carers and people with disabilities the break they badly need.
 
The government’s approach is to tweak at the edges of lots of different schemes.  This will enable them to make lots of announcements but it will not give people the real break that only the across-the-board increases advocated by Sinn Féin would provide.
 
In our Alternative Budget Sinn Féin advocated a €5 increase to all weekly rates and €9 on disability payments in order to begin to recognise the additional costs to which disability gives rise.
Ensuring that those who rely on social supports receive an income that is adequate to secure a basic standard of living for them and their families.
 
Sinn Féin’s priorities for Social Protection focus on those in our society who live in deep income inadequacy; 
 
Lone parent families, families with older children. 
 
Déantar measúnú ar an tsochaí ar conas a tacaíonn sé lena daoine is laige sa phobal.
 
And, despite today’s announcement, many young jobseekers under the age of 26 will continue to receive reduced rates of payment based on age discrimination;
 
Discrimination introduced by Fianna Fáil and the Greens in 2009 and perpetuated by Fine Gael and Labour in the years that followed.
 
At present those aged 18 to 24 receive up to 90 euro less than those older than 26 each week.
 
Sinn Féin would restore the full rate regardless of age within 2 years.
 
Because that is the right thing to do.
 
The government will try to make much today of their moves on jobseekers allowance for 18 to 25 year olds.  They may even claim to be restoring equality and full rates.  But let’s look at the figures because the figures don’t lie.  The government are allocating 5.2 million to jobseekers allowance for the under 26s.  We know from figures provided to us by the Department of Public Expenditure that the cost of restoring equality or full rates for these younger jobseekers is €59.9million.  Sinn Féin proposed to allocation half of that i.e. €30 million next year.
 
We know from CSO data that lone parent families experience consistent poverty at a rate five times higher than other families;
 
And are more likely to experience deprivation.
 
Sinn Féin have continually called for the establishment of a Child Maintenance Service, similar to that available to lone parents in the North.
 
We know that child maintenance reduces child poverty – something this Government has abjectly failed to achieve.
 
That failure is felt by one in five children in Ireland who live in poverty today.
 
Sinn Féin would also increase the age cut-off for the One Parent Family Payment scheme.
 
We want to ensure that lone parents are properly supported to care for their children up to the age of 14, instead of forcing them into poverty when their child turns 7.
 
This cut, introduced by the Labour Party, has not been reversed despite clear evidence that it has led to increased deprivation for lone parent families.
 
The Working Family Payment was set up to support working parents with children. 
 
The existing threshold of 19 hours per week means that many lone parents, often women, who work while raising a family on their own, typically miss out on this support. 
 
Sinn Féin would support these working parents by reducing the threshold to 15 hours. 
 
Understanding the costs families and parents face, Sinn Féin would provide a 5 euro boost in the Qualified Child Increase for children above the age of 12.
 
We also proposed an annual double payment of Child Benefit be paid each summer in recognition of high back to school costs.  And extending Child Benefit to cover 18 year olds who are still in school.
 
Giving workers and families a break.
 
The Government has offered nothing for these families today.
 
Or for those on low incomes.
 
With over one quarter of all workers in low pay, Ireland has the third highest proportion of low paid workers in the developed world.
 
In a country with soaring rents, rip-off insurance premiums and run-away childcare costs, Leo’s Republic of Opportunity does not reward work.
 
Sinn Féin want to change that, making work pay and deliver a decent standard of living.
 
That is why Sinn Féin is the Living Wage party.
 
But this government should be appalled that, as families and workers face into the mouth of Brexit, you have left them high and dry.
 
You have deprived them of the minimum wage increase that they deserve.
 
As costs of living continue to soar, and with a no-deal Brexit on the doorstep, you have abandoned ordinary people once again.

Health
 
This weekend the Irish Hospital Consultants Association voted no confidence in this Minister for Health.
 
Just as Sinn Féin did in February, despite opposition from Fianna Fáil who kept him in his post.
 
A Minister who lacks the authority, inclination or experience to deliver timely, quality hospital care for patients.
 
A Minister who had become increasingly complacent and deaf to the suffering of patients.
 
These are not my words Minister, but the words of our hospital consultants this weekend.
 
That is because the public health system is not working.
 
Nearly 700,000 people languish on hospital waiting lists.
 
Over 10 thousand hospital patients went without a bed last month.
 
These figures are unsustainable.
 
This Government is breaking records for all the wrong reasons.
 
It continues to fail patients, doctors and nurses.
 
Too many people can’t afford to see their GP.
 
Instead they hedge their bets, refusing to visit their GP until they suffer from enough ailments to justify the expense.
 
This is the stupidity that cuts through your dysfunctional health service.
 
Lack of access to primary care that increases costs and waiting lists in our hospitals.
 
This Budget could have delivered real improvements in the primary care system had the right choices been made.
 
As well as directly employing additional GPs into the public system and delivering full pay equalisation for consultants, Sinn Féin would have provided two free GP visits for every citizen in the State.
 
Lifting the burden of sickness from workers and families;
 
Beginning the path towards a health service that delivers for patients based on their needs rather than their ability to pay.
 
Ag dul i dtreo seirbhís sláinte atá in ann freastal ar riachtanais an othair.
 
Over 7 thousand people are waiting for home support care;
 
For the few hours of help they need just to live in their own homes.
 
Only last week Minister Daly said he was ashamed at the lack of supports for our older citizens.
 
But how has this Budget responded?
 
At present the waiting list for home help hours stands at 7,300.
 
7,300 older citizens who require home help hours to stay in their own homes.
 
With an average of 6 hours home help required each week for these citizens;
 
This Budget falls almost 1.5 million hours short of what is needed to clear the waiting lists and give our older people the support that they need.
 
What does that mean Minister?
 
It means that over 4 thousand older citizens will continue to languish on waiting lists, subject to the lottery of home care help that is currently in place.
 
This chamber has heard countless stories of workers who have cut their hours or give up their jobs just to care for their parents.
 
We all know families who have had to scrape together hard-earned money to pay for private homecare for their loved ones.
 
And parents of children with disabilities, who have become full-time carers because the support just isn’t there.
 
Minister, a 59 million investment in home support could have cleared this waiting list in its entirety.
 
That is what Sinn Féin has called for.
 
Imagine how workers and families who care for their loved ones would have felt,
 
Had the news filtered through that Government had decided to give them a break and offer them help.
 
Imagine how our older citizens would have felt had you delivered a speech that said, “we will ensure you can live at home with the dignity and respect you deserve by providing the home support and care that you need”.
 
That was achievable Minister, but you were unable to make that promise to all of those families and older citizens.
 
Your response to tackle hospital waiting lists has been to increase the money pumped into the private sector through National Treatment Purchase Fund to 100 million.
 
This is the breadth and depth of Fianna Fáil’s solutions to the health service.
 
Allocating scarce resources into the private health sector at the expense of improving patient care in public hospitals.
 
You could have listened to Sinn Féin’s proposal and provided a medical card to every patient with cancer for the duration of their treatment at a cost of 40 million.
 
Instead you have increased the threshold for medical cards for those over the age of 70.
 
Now Sinn Féin support any measure that extends health care on the basis of need, Minsiter.
 
We do not disagree with extending GP care to anyone.
 
But this measure is feeble. One that benefits only 36 thousand people.
 
What about those under the age of 70? 
 
What about the young worker who earns only 185 euros after tax? There will be nothing for them.
 
Or the couple with a child an income of only 270 euros after tax? Again, there will be nothing for them either.
 
Sinn Féin would have rolled out 2 free GP visits for every citizen in this State, a real improvement in ordinary people’s lives, that would have lifted the burden of illness, and improved access to primary care.
 
You could have tackled the recruitment and retention crisis in our hospitals, listening to solutions that Sinn Féin have offered.
 
But you have given no definitive committment to hiring any new frontline health staff in the middle of a recruitment and retention crisis.
 
 
By employing 500 additional nurses and midwives and increasing capacity by opening an additional 500 hospitals beds.
 
Instead you have announced absolutely nothing regarding the reopening hospital beds.
 
And allocated a derisory €8million for National Cancer Strategy, National Maternity Strategy, National Trauma Strategy, and the National Ambulance Reform plan.
 
The national maternity strategy needs €75 million over 10 years, so that’s at least €7.5 million per year to keep it on track
 
Sinn Féin proposed rapid funding the national maternity strategy – double funding per year - €14m
 
And we proposed an investment of 12 million euros for three additional ambulances for each of the four HSE regions and the paramedics to staff them – a €12 million investment.
 
This Budget has done none of that.
 
You could have charted a better course for patients and our health service staff.
 
You chose not to.

Housing
 
Every day our attention is drawn to housing.
 
Renters handing a third of their pay packet to their landlord.
 
Families and couples struggling to find a home they can afford.
 
Homelessness figures that reach more disturbing levels.
 
Rents that continue to rise with no sign of letting up.
 
The housing crisis has become wrapped up in stats and figures, instead of focusing on the core issues, the human stories, and the real solutions.
 
Let’s face facts.
 
Things are no better now than they were last year.
 
Over 10 thousand people were recorded homeless at the end of August for the seventh month in a row.
 
Nearly 4 thousand of them children.
 
The number of child homeless has increased by 365 percent during five years of economic growth.
 
With children growing up in hotels and B&Bs. 
 
We have come a long way from the promise of the Republic.
 
These faceless figures hide the hidden homeless.
 
Young people who have returned to the homes of their parents to raise their own families.
 
There are stories behind the numbers. 
 
Tenants still face rip-off rents that are rising faster than their incomes.
 
It now costs more than 17 hundred euros a month to rent in Dublin.
 
The picture is not much better elsewhere.
 
Young people are locked out of secure and affordable accommodation,
 
Whether they hope to own or to rent.
 
It is better to be a vulture fund or international property investor in today’s Ireland than a worker or a family planning for the future.
 
This is no country for young people. 
 
They have driven social change and broadened our horizons, but this Government has lowered theirs.
 
Our housing system is broke.
 
And what have you done today to fix it?
 
Nothing.
 
This is a status quo budget for housing.
 
Given that status quo is an escalating housing crisis, rising homelessness and runaway rents, this is not a Budget for tenants or workers or families trying to get on the property ladder.
 
This is a budget with no additional targets for social housing, with build and acquisition targets unchanged.
 
And no affordable homes to be delivered in 2020.
 
With land hording contributing to the housing crisis, there has been no increase in the Vacant Site Levy, a gift to developers who sit on land and drive up land and house prices.
 
What this Budget does deliver are significant increases in subsidies for private landlords, with funding spending on HAP, RAS and leasing twice as big as funding for social housing.
 
Once again, this is a Budget for landlords.
 
With an additional 20 million allocated for homeless service, it seems this Government has acknowledged that homelessness with continue to rise.
 
In short, this is not a Budget for renters or anyone looking for a home.
 
The only thing Fianna Fáil have to show from this Budget is a botched Help to Buy Scheme that has failed to deliver on any of its objectives;
 
And at a cost 100 million in 2020, 40 million more than has been allocated for additional social housing.
 
Eighty percent of purchases through the scheme have been for properties costing more than 375 thousand, benefitting high income earners, not low and middle-income workers.
 
These are not my figures, but those of the Parliamentary Budget Office.
 
This is your affordable housing strategy.
 
This is what Fianna Fáil have to show from weeks of Budget negotiations.
 
Nothing for low and middle income earners trying to buy a home.
 
Like so many of their policies, their only idea for housing is a bad one.
 
Sinn Féin have a vision for housing that has at its centre a citizens’ right to a home.
 
Fís nach bhfuil díríthe ar riachtanais an mhargaidh a shásamh ach ceann atá tiomanta do riar ar riachtanais saoránach, teaghlaigh agus páistí.
 
It is a vision backed up by solutions.
 
To hold a referendum and enshrine the right to housing in our constitution.
 
To introduce an emergency three-year rent freeze and provide a refundable tax credit worth one month’s rent for all renters not in receipt of HAP or RAS.
 
This measure alone would put one month’s rent back in tenants’ pockets next year, giving them a break and the breathing space to save and plan for the future.
 
This Government has built homes at a glacial pace, with a Rebuilding Ireland Programme that has failed on all counts.
 
Sinn Féin have provided for large scale investment in public housing in our alternative proposals.
 
We would double capital investment in public housing, increasing the output of social and affordable homes in 2020 and delivering an additional 8,700 housing units;
 
Empowering local authorities to develop sustainable communities on public land with social, cost rental and affordable purchase homes.
 
Can this be done? Of course it can.
 
Following the advice of the Chair of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, and ending the tax break that allows huge multinationals to write off on-shored intangible assets against their profits, would alone generate 750 million next year.
 
Resources that could be used to invest in secure and affordable homes.
 
These are choices Sinn Féin would make.
 
This is another Budget that has failed to deliver for renters and families.

Childcare & Education
 
Families are also looking for a break as they contend with the rising costs of childcare.
 
It has never been harder to raise a family.
 
The current system is broken, with subsidies only ever chasing rising costs.
 
A childcare sector that is driven solely by profit is failing children, parents and workers. 
 
Low pay, high costs and revelations of substandard care on RTÉ, are the inevitable consequence of a childcare service reduced to the operations of the market.
 
What is on offer today does little to make it easier.
 
Sinn Féin would commence a 5-year transformational programme of reform that would make childcare affordable and give parents a break.
 
Despite working for to give our kids the best start in life, childcare workers are underpaid and undervalued.
 
Sinn Féin would change that, introducing a proper pay scale that begins above the Living Wage and recognizes the value of their profession.
 
At the same time, we would cut the cost of childcare by two thirds.
 
Sinn Féin’s childcare plan would have slashed the cost of childcare by 13 percent next year alone, putting money back into parents’ pockets and giving families a break.
 
Our plan would have cut the cost for parent by 100 euros per child per month in 2020.
 
And it would have been done by allowing childcare providers to opt into this system, with workers paid and recognized as public servants, and fees capped at a reduced and affordable level for families.
 
That is the Childcare service that only Sinn Féin can deliver.
 
Sin an tseirbhís cúram leanaí nach bhfuil aon pháirtí eile ábalta a chur ar fáil ach Sinn Féin.
 
This Budget falls far short of that ambition, for families and parents.
 
Families expected more Gardaí on our streets to keep them safe. Today’s announcement is entirely unfit to meet these expectations.
 
Up to 700 Guards is not enough, and certainly not when will retire this year.
 
This is 400 net extra gardaí – only half of what Templemore college can deliver.
 
And while we welcome the additional staffing support in our schools, little has been announced today that will help families with the costs of education.
 
You have not tackled college and university fees, you have done little to ease the cost of sending kids back to primary and secondary education. 

Conclusion
 
Today we have had a do-nothing Budget from a do-nothing Government.
 
This time Brexit is the excuse for a Government that is out of ideas and out of time.
 
When we subtract what has been taken from what has been given,
 
This Budget has delivered little for workers and families.
 
This is not the Budget Sinn Féin would have delivered.
 
Sinn Féin would have would have brought forward real and deliverable solutions, putting citizens, not vested interests, at the centre of our economy, at the top of our priorities.
 
That would have tackled the rip-off costs faced by countless families – sky-high premiums, extortionate rents and eye-watering childcare or back to school costs.
 
That would have raised incomes and made sure that work delivers a secure standard of living.
 
That would have given workers and families a break.
 
It must be the role of the State - in promoting the development of an economy that serves everyone and all - to take a side and take a stand for what it right and what is good.

They are the values we must abide by; stepping up and providing where there are failings, rectifying wrongs where they’ve been made and taking charge where the State has abdicated its responsibility.
 
This Budget has failed to deliver on these values.
 
Ní bhfaighidh oibrithe nó teaghlaigh faoiseamh ón bhuiséad seo.
 
Sinn Féin will continue to lead the way, and one day you might listen.

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Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has said the role played by the British government in supplying weapons and information to loyalist death squads must be fully investigated. 

The Mid Ulster MP said: 

"The latest revelations about the role of the British government and its involvement in supplying weapons and information to loyalist death squads raises many questions. 

"From the 1970s, hundreds of weapons from British army and UDR bases found their way into the lands of loyalists, particularly in areas like Armagh and East Tyrone. 

"In the 1980s, British intelligence services were involved in supplying loyalists with weapons from South Africa. Some of these weapons were distributed to Ulster Resistance, which was formed with the support of the DUP. Those weapons were used in dozens of killing across the north for many years. 

"Many of these weapons are still in the hands of loyalists today, including the weapons which were in the hands of Ulster Resistance. 

"What control, if any, do British intelligence services have over these weapons today? 

"Neither the DUP nor the British government can walk away from any of this and they cannot airbrush their role in the conflict. 

"The British government have responsibility to ensure a legacy mechanisms are put in place to address the legacy of the conflict." 

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 Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has commenced the dairy sector for its efforts to address its carbon footprint. 

Speaking after a dairy farm visit organised by the Diary Council, Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley said:

“I visited a dairy farm the opportunity to view the latest technologies and on-farm advances in the areas of environmental and energy efficiency. 

“The latest technologies provide the opportunity for the diary sector to reduce the carbon footprint while still maximising the overall farm profit in a labour efficient working environment.

“Since 1990 the dairy sector in the north has reduced fuel and electricity emissions by around 70%, manure emissions by some 27% and enteric fermentation emissions by 30%, with a 50% increase in milk production in the same period. 

“Efficient use of renewable energy sources, on farm emissions mitigation measures, grassland and fertility management all contribute to lowering the sector’s carbon footprint.

“I want to commend the dairy sector’s sustainability initiatives which have allowed for dairy products to be processed in an efficient manner whilst minimising emissions which is vital to preserving the planet for future generations.”

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Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has said the international community has a duty to stand up for the Kurdish community as they face the prospect of a new onslaught from Turkey. 

The Mid Ulster MP said: 

"The beleaguered Kurdish community is now facing the possibility of a new military onslaught by the Turkish regime. 

"The Kurdish communities in north eastern Syria have already suffered greatly and there is considerable concern for them around the world. 

"This move comes at a time when the Turkish regime has already increased its repression and oppression of the Kurds. 

"The international community has a duty and responsibility to stand by the Kurdish people and to challenge the oppression by the Turkish authorities." 

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New European Commission must stop marginalising Irish fishing communities - Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has said that the EU nominee for the post of Environment and Oceans Commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius from Lithuania, has yet to prove that he is up for the job of protecting and supporting fishing communities.

In a hearing with members of the European Parliament last week Mr. Sinkevičius defended the removal of reference to fisheries in the new portfolio title.

Speaking from Brussels on Tuesday Carthy, MEP for the Midlands North West, said that he believed that Mr. Sinkevičius’s replies to questions were too ambiguous which was worrying for the Irish fishing sector.  The apparent lack of insight from the new commissioner, he said, was concerning considering the importance of fisheries to communities across Ireland´s coastline.  

Carthy said:

“The commissioner designate correctly acknowledges that marine biodiversity is facing a crisis as a result of industrial overfishing, marine litter and climate change.

“However, the choice made by the new Commission to remove fisheries from the title of the portfolio will be seen as a further step in the marginalization of traditional fishing communities.

“Of course, this is more important than titles.  Even if we now add the word “fisheries” to the current portfolio the concerns would persist until we see a specific commission portfolio that prioritises fisheries across its three dimensions - social, environmental, economic - and recognises its value to our coastal economy”.

Brexit

Raising the Brexit related concerns of Fishing communities Carthy continued: “Fishers from Ireland catch 36 percent of their total allowable catch in waters that fall under British jurisdiction. After Brexit, access to these fishing grounds could be blocked to EU vessels, including our own.

“The CFP and quota allocations to the various remaining Member states must therefore be revisited.  The quota share of the fish that vessels from Ireland currently catch in waters between Ireland and Britain is of major concern, but the Commissioner designate has not been reassuring on this matter.

“Ireland, following Brexit, with the largest remaining lucrative fishing grounds in the North Western Waters, will be geographically isolated from Europe. Ireland must be given a special status similar to other periphery regions as set out in the treaties. 

“This fact was acknowledged when the European Parliament passed Sinn Féin´s amendment to legislation for the new Maritime Fund earlier this year inserting special funding specifically for Ireland´s remote coastal areas.

“In order to try to mitigate the damage that the neglect of our rural fishing communities have endured for years and the threat of a no deal Brexit, the European Commission and Council need to stop marginalising fisheries and endorse the Parliament´s position on funding for Ireland.  That means addressing the fishing quota and access crisis that Irish fishers will face if Britain leaves with no deal”.

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor for Dublin’s North Inner-City Janice Boylan is to hold a public meeting tonight to discuss the future for the O’Devaney Gardens development plan, following Dublin City Council’s decision last night to defer the planned sale of the land.

Speaking today, Cllr Boylan said,

“Dublin City Council last night opted to defer the current proposed redevelopment of the land.

"Sinn Féin is now calling on all Councillors from a cross the political spectrum to work together to agree a new plan which can meet the community needs and deliver truly affordable homes from local families.

“We just have one opportunity to get this right. It is important that the local community are front and centre to the debate and the discussions on O’Devaney’s future.

"I am therefore encouraging people to come along tonight to the public meeting."

ENDS//

Note to editors: The public meeting will be held in Prussia Street Parish Centre tonight (Tuesday) at 7.30pm

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has challenged Minister Paschal Donohoe to a head to head debate on budget 2020.

Speaking today Teachta Doherty said the traditional budget night debate has always been between the minister and the lead opposition spokesperson but since Fianna Fáil started supporting Fine Gael budgets under the confidence and supply deal successive Finance Ministers have refused to debate head to head with Sinn Féin as the lead party opposing the budget.

He said;

“The Confidence and Supply deal has had a lot of unintended consequences but one which was done be design rather than default was the end of the budget night debate between the Finance Minister of the day and the lead opposition spokesperson.

“In response to Budget 2017, the first budget under confidence and supply, RTÉ proposed a debate between myself and Minister Michael Noonan.  However, after a fuss from Fianna Fáil, Minister Noonan refused to debate with me head to head and instead we had the first of the panel debates that we have now had each year since.

“The panel debates are all well and good but they do not create the space for a detailed debate about the budget and that is a loss to viewers in my opinion.

“Therefore I challenging Minister Donohue to debate Budget 2020 head to head with me tomorrow evening.

“Neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael, should be allowed to dictate what type of debate RTÉ host on budget night.”

ENDS

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Speaking after leaked British ministerial advice warned that post-Brexit trade agreements could ‘irreparably damage' environment and public health, Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said:

“This report from the British Department for Trade is yet another example of the chaos and disfunction of the British government is inflicting on the people of the north and Ireland as a whole.

“It is further proof that Brexit is bad for our farmers, our food safety, our families, and our environment. 

“Sinn Fein will continue to work with political reps in the USA to ensure that any future trade deal that is bad for Ireland and does not respect the Good Friday Agreement is opposed in Congress.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has expressed his “deep sadness at the death of his friend Ulick O'Connor.”

Teachta Adams said: 

“Ulick was a strong republican. He first  spoke on a platform with me in the 1980’s. He was a strong supporter of Féile an Phobail and brought his play Executions and other works to the Féile.

"He was also a regular visitor to Sinn Féin Ard Fheiseanna for decades until ill-health prevented him from attending. 

"He was a fine poet, artist, social commentator, athlete, author and playwright. 

"I want to extend my sincere condolences to Ulick’s family and friends. Go ndeanfaidh dia trocáire air."

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has said it is disappointing that the government have decided to establish a reimbursement scheme instead of extending the European Health Insurance Card scheme to people in north.

Speaking this afternoon, Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The government gave several commitments over the past number of weeks that they would be extending the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme to people in the north, post-Brexit.

“The EHIC card lets a person on holiday, or on a short-term stay, get access to healthcare in another EU or European Economic Area (EEA) state for free, or at a reduced cost.

“It had been hoped that the Health and Childcare Support (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2019 would deliver this measure and ensure that after Brexit people in the north would have access to an EHIC card and the benefits it entails, the same as all other people living in EU and EAA countries.

“Therefore, it is disappointing that the government have decided to establish a reimbursement scheme instead of providing people in the north with EHIC cards.

“This situation creates many practical problems as some people may not be able to pay these Bills in the first instance also, those who do pay could be left waiting months before they are reimbursed by the HSE.

“It is quite regrettable that the government have not fully kept to their word on this matter. 

“Sinn Féin will be proposing amendments when the Bill comes before the Oireachtas Health Committee in the coming weeks to ensure that people in the north are provided with EHIC cards, the same as all other people living in EU and EAA countries."

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Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn and spokesperson for mental health has called for greater awareness of the impact of Endometriosis on women's health. 

The West Belfast MLA said;

"Endometriosis effects as many as one in ten women of childbearing age.

"The condition is when pieces of the womb are found elsewhere in the body and approximately 10% of sufferers experience severe symptoms. 

"While I welcome the additional two nursing posts for endometriosis care services here in the north, the waiting times to access treatment are unacceptably long.

"Women affected by Endometriosis can suffer daily until treated effectively.

"Symptoms range from physical discomfort to pain and can often impact on women's mental health as a result.

"Sinn Féin stressed the need for regional Endometriosis centres in providing timely care and greater awareness of the condition in our "A Vision For Women's Health" policy document. We continue to advocate for better services for women with Endometriosis.” 

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Minister confirms that northern drivers will not need to display GB stickers post-Brexit – Matt Carthy MEP

The Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has welcomed confirmation received by his party’s Transport Spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, from Minister Ross that: “These stickers (GB stickers) are prescribed under international road traffic conventions, including the Geneva Convention which I mentioned, and which applies between Ireland and the UK.  The purpose of the sticker is largely to identify a vehicle as visiting rather than as based in the jurisdiction, for tax purposes.  However, there is no offence of not having a sticker of this kind in Irish road traffic legislation”.

Matt Carthy said:

“I welcome this confirmation of the legal situation.  Common sense has prevailed and the threat to northern drivers of having to put a GB sticker on their car is an empty one it seems.  Beyond the political importance this is a practical concern for hauliers and many other drivers and workers.

“There are still questions over insurance and driving licences that need to be resolved.  I urge anybody living in the south with British licence to transfer it to an Irish licence as soon as possible to avoid any potential difficulties.  Leaving it until after Brexit risks having to begin the while licencing process again although I hope flexibility can be granted in this situation.

“On insurance, Britain has waived the requirement for Green Card for drivers going north but the EU has yet to waive this requirement for drivers coming from the north.  This is entirely in the power of the EU to do but, despite saying he is pushing for it, Minister Ross has failed to convince them to do so.  He needs to up his game and get the EU to agree to this exception, at least for Ireland.

“For us those of from the border region these are the real outworkings of what represents a hardening of the border.  We will not accept any burden that makes it more difficult to get about our lives on a cross-border basis.  Government need to be proactive across every department in addressing these issues” 

Parliamentary response to Jonathan O’Brien from Minister for Shane Ross: 

For Oral Answer on : 02/10/2019

Question Number(s): 68 Question Reference(s): 39904/19

Department: Transport, Tourism and Sport

Asked by: Jonathan O'Brien T.D.

______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the efforts he is making to ensure that drivers in Northern Ireland will be permitted to drive legally here without additional paperwork or stickers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY
Although the Deputy does not say so, I am assuming that he is referring to drivers from Northern Ireland being able to drive into this jurisdiction if Brexit occurs without a deal in place.  The answer is that they will.

Specifically, driving across the border in a no-deal Brexit scenario will raise three issues.  The first is the driving licence.  Under the 1949 Geneva Convention on international road traffic, people will be able to drive here on their Northern Ireland licences, on a visitor basis.  No additional documentation will be required in this regard.

Next, there is the question of insurance.  There is a international system, pre-dating the EU, under which a so-called 'Green Card' acts as proof of motor insurance in international travel.  This system was created to facilitate international road traffic by providing for a single standard document as proof of motor insurance across all participating countries, rather than requiring people to carry different documentation for each country they enter.  

Under EU law, Green Cards are not required for travel within the EU.  If the UK becomes a Third Country without a deal, the default position will be that Green Cards will be required for UK-registered vehicles entering the EU from the UK.  EU law does, however, provide that the EU Commission should set a date after which Green Cards will not be required from a given Third Country, if the Motor Insurers' Bureaux of all the Member States so request.  This request was made late last year.  The Commission has yet to make a decision on setting a date.  Ireland has continued to request that the Commission make a decision, so that Green Cards will not be required.

The third and final matter is whether vehicles should have a national identification sticker.  These stickers are prescribed under international road traffic conventions, including the Geneva Convention which I mentioned, and which applies between Ireland and the UK.  The purpose of the sticker is largely to identify a vehicle as visiting rather than as based in the jurisdiction, for tax purposes.  However, there is no offence of not having a sticker of this kind in Irish road traffic legislation.  While I need hardly point out that a person is unlikely to be made liable for vehicle tax simply as a result of not having an international sticker, this is essentially a matter for Revenue.  I understand that there is likewise no offence of not having a sticker in UK law.  

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill said today there is an onus on An Taoiseach to stand up for Irish interests in the face of the unprecedented challenge of a Tory Brexit rather than engage in insulting and nasty commentary. 

Michelle O’Neill said:

“As we face this week into a time of unprecedented challenges, merely days away from the Brexit deadline, the chaos and uncertainty continues.

“The DUP continues to act against the interests of people in the north, the majority of whom voted to remain in the EU.

“Boris Johnson’s reckless and dangerous Brexit plan has been rejected by all the political parties in the north and all our key business and civic sectors apart from the DUP.  

“The British Tory government has abandoned any pretence of acting with the impartiality required by the Good Friday Agreement.

“This is a time for steady heads.

“This is a time for leadership.

“This is a time when the Taoiseach needs to stand up for Irish interests in line with his commitments that nationalists in the north will never be left behind again.

“And it is clearly not a time for An Taoiseach to engage in petty political point scoring and the sort of insulting and nasty commentary usually associated with arch Brexiteers and the DUP.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin councillor Oliver McMullan has said a loyalist parade in Larne achieved nothing other than bringing further hurt to the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday and souring community relations in the town.

Cllr McMullan said: 

"The parade on Saturday night was nothing short of a coat trailing exercise which achieved nothing other than bringing further hurt to the families who are victims of the Bloody Sunday Massacre.

“The erection of offensive and provocative banners and parades supporting the British Parachute Regiment and 'Soldier F,' the former British soldier facing murder charges in connection with Bloody Sunday, across Belfast and throughout the North have caused widespread hurt and trauma.

“It is appalling that the Bloody Sunday families have been forced to wait almost 50 years for any semblance of truth and justice as a direct result of the British state’s cover-up of murder and collusion during the conflict.

“I have been in contact with the police to raise my concerns about the parade which had a further negative impact on community relations in the town.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said that the Taoiseach is 'out if ideas and increasingly desperate to cling to power'.

Teachta McDonald said:

"The Taoiseach leads a government that is stumbling from one crisis to the next in respect of housing, healthcare and the rising cost of living.

“Fine Gael, aided and abetted by Fianna Fáil, have proven that they are incapable of delivering for ordinary citizens. They have driven up the price of rents and left thousands of families without a home. Homelessness is at record levels.

"We have a Taoiseach that is failing workers and families, is out of ideas and increasingly desperate to cling to power.

"Instead of focusing on delivering for workers and families, he has chosen to attack Sinn Féin in comments unworthy of the office of Taoiseach.

"Joining the DUP leader Arlene Foster in comparing Republicans and nationalists to animals is hardly a badge of honour. In the face of Brexit gratuitous insults are no substitute for thoughtful leadership.

"The Taoiseach should remember that it is the people who decide who will be in government, not Leo Varadkar." ENDS

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