Sinn Féin spokesperson on Disability and Carers, Pauline Tully TD, has called on the Government to allocate funding to ensure the full re-opening of day-services for people with disabilities.
Teachta Tully said:
“I would like to commend all the staff involved in getting day-services reopened at very short notice and in what are exceptionally difficult and unprecedented circumstances. However, I am concerned that day-services are reopening at a much reduced capacity and, as a result, people with disabilities may be discriminated against by a failure to ensure they receive the full services they need.
“People who were receiving five full days pre-Covid are now only receiving one, two and if lucky three days.
“From engagement within the sector, I am aware that some service providers have been advised that there is not going to be any additional funding made available to them to help them reopen fully.
“I would question why these services are not being treated on a par with equivalent services that have been re-opened. Day-services are education and training facilities for adults and school leavers with disabilities. Schools are all now fully reopened – why not day-services?
“To end this discrimination and to allow day-services to fully and safely reopen, financial assistance is required from the government. A ring-fenced budget is vitally important.
“A budget was provided to assist schools in their preparations to reopen in their entirety and it was done to accommodate the vast majority of students on a full time basis. It is clear that the same should apply for the full and safe reopening of day-centres for people with disabilities.
“People with disabilities should not be treated as an afterthought. They have the right to have their needs met and their concerns listened to. The Government cannot continue to fail people with disabilities by this unacceptable lack of prioritisation and allocation of funding and resources.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to make it clear that the Winter Plan will deliver the necessary funding to support people with disabilities.
Deputy McDonald has written to Minister Donnelly to raise her concerns at the delays in making the vital funding available, and the disastrous impact that this is having on service provision.
Speaking this afternoon, Teachta McDonald said: "Services for people living with disabilities have taken a massive hit as a result of the Covid-19 emergency.
"Day services for people with disabilities have been particularly affected with capacity still operating at only 40%.
"Despite the fact that service providers submitted their cost requirements to the government in June, they have not received the funding to put in place the infection prevention and control measures and the additional space necessary to return services to full capacity.
"The delays in delivering this vital funding is completely unacceptable and it is having real-world consequences for people with disabilities.
"Many people have been left without the vital supports they need while families and carers have been stretched to incredible lengths, many to breaking point. The sense of abandonment they feel cannot be overstated.
"I have written to Minister Donnelly asking him to confirm that the government will now provide the level of funding required to meet the challenges presented by the pandemic for the remainder of 2020 and for 2021.
"The Minister must also ensure that this funding is ring-fenced and protected from shortfalls in other areas and service providers must be told when exactly they will receive this important funding. They have been waiting too long already.
"The disability sector was struggling due to lack of funding even before the pandemic hit. It is time Minister Donnelly and this government realised the extraordinary challenges faced by people with disabilities, their families and by service providers, especially during this crisis.
"He must now provide the financial certainty that disability services need to deliver the supports that some of our most vulnerable people rely on."
Sinn Fein spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment, and Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD, has voiced her concern that the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) will be closed for the duration of the Level 3 lockdown in Dublin, and has called for additional health and safety measures to be put in place to ensure this essential service remains open.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The news that the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) will be closed for the duration of the Level 3 lockdown in Dublin will cause difficulties for many workers who are waiting months to have their cases heard.
“Last year the average time for cases to reach hearing at the WRC was 17 weeks in industrial relations cases, and 26 weeks in employment rights cases.
“Complete cessation of on-site work at the WRC will result in cases being even further drawn out, especially when we factor the lockdown earlier in the year into the equation.
“The Courts and Labour Court have remained open, so perhaps there is a blueprint there for how the WRC can operate in a safe and secure manner which protects those working there, as well as those attending hearings.
“If there is a need for additional health and safety measures to be put in place to ensure this essential service remains open, then those measures need to be delivered by the state.
“Furthermore, as we learn to live with Covid19, the government needs to provide for remote hearings for the WRC.
“Level 3 of the lockdown will affect different sectors in different ways, but it imperative that we do all we can to ensure the health and safety of workers in essential services, such as the WRC, are protected and that we do all we can, including looking at new ways of working, to keep them operational.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing Thomas Gould has called on the government to implement greater oversight and regulation on the use of nitrous oxide.
Speaking today, the Cork North Central TD said: “This is an issue myself and my party colleagues have been raising repeatedly in the Dáil. Videos of the aftermath of a recent incident in Dublin city highlight the prevalence of this drug among young people.
“The government now needs to step up and properly regulate the sale, supply and distribution of nitrous oxide to protect young people and to prevent the normalisation of this drug.
“We need to be seen to be stepping up for communities who are fighting hard to protect their young people from nitrous oxide misuse.
“It is now vital that the danger of nitrous oxide is included in any - and all - education programmes for young people including the one promised in the Programme for Government.
“The government needs to take this issue seriously. This is not just a Dublin issue, this is a national problem that needs to be addressed immediately.”
Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomes a campaign by The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) to reduce class sizes in Ireland in the forthcoming budget.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire described the campaign, which was launched today, as "timely and very necessary".
The Cork South Central TD said:
“It is clear that the return to school has been made all the more difficult because our education system is underfunded, understaffed, and overcrowded. There are countless classes that are far too big, in buildings too small and not fit for purpose.
“It is our large class sizes that have made reopening so difficult. According to figures released to me, over 1,300 primary schools across the country have classes of over 30 kids.
"That equates to one in every five children in a class of over 30. Given the large class sizes, coupled with historically small classrooms, it is no wonder that many schools have struggled to find space to implement social distancing.
“The first step in ensuring that educational standards and safety protocols can be maintained, is by drastically reducing class sizes down to the EU average of 20. In July, Sinn Féin put forward a Motion which would have committed the Government to doing just that, but it was rejected outright by the government parties.
“If ever there was a time to tackle this issue, it is now. This is why in our policy document, ‘Keeping Schools Open’, we committed to working towards reducing the pupil-teacher ratio to 20:1 at a cost of €72million, beginning with classes of over 30 kids.
“We can never again allow our education system to become so vulnerable to disruption as it has proven to be in the past few months. If the Government wants schools to remain open safely and sustainably, reducing class sizes is one of the key ingredients."
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has called on Economy Minister Diane Dodds to urgently release financial support for local travel agents struggling as a consequence of the COVID19 pandemic.
The South Down MP said:
“There are approximately 80 local travel agents employing in the region of 600 workers that are facing financial difficulty due to the impact of Covid-19.
"Economy Minister Diane Dodds has failed to bring forward a focused support package for these workers and local businesses.
“Recent research suggests the local travel agent industry has suffered a decline of more than 90% in trade this year, with consumer confidence in foreign travel at an all-time low.
“Research also found that the number of people employed in this sector will have decreased by 54% within the next six months if an intervention is not made soon.
“With this in mind, I have asked Minister Dodds to listen to these genuine concerns and introduce a much-needed support package for these workers and businesses. If she fails to do so, our local travel agencies face inevitable collapse.”
Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing, Thomas Gould TD, has today called on the government to give much needed clarity to members and organisers of drug and alcohol support groups in Dublin.
His comments follow an announcement by Junior Minister Frank Feighan that these meetings cannot go ahead under Level 3 restrictions.
Teachta Gould said:
“The treatment of people in recovery, over the last number of weeks, by this government has been disgraceful. It took 3 weeks to receive clarification that these meetings could go ahead under the previous set of guidelines. Now, the government have backtracked on this clarification and are pulling these meetings.
“Minister Stephen Donnelly is quoted as saying these groups serve ‘essentially a healthcare/public health function’. How many other healthcare or public health functions have been closed under the new guidelines?
“It took 3 weeks to receive clarification that these meetings were essential. It was 4 days after NPHET clarification was received before an official announcement and letter was published. A backbench Fianna Fail TD told AA to restart meetings, via Facebook, before the NPHET clarification.
“These are people who have fought hard for their recovery. They deserve respect and compassion. The actions of the government, and the latest announcement by Minister Feighan, undermine the efforts by those in recovery during this difficult and trying time.
“I would call on the Minister to publish the Public Health Advice that led to this decision. I think people deserve to know that this time, the Minister’s decision is backed up by evidence.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has today published an ambitious affordable housing plan which provides detailed information on the affordable homes Sinn Féin would deliver in government.
Teachta Ó Broin said: “Affordable housing was the single biggest issue in last February’s general election.
“A Sinn Féin government would commence the largest public house building programme in the history of the state. We would deliver 20,000 homes on public land in 2021.
“We would spend €2.8bn on public housing in 2021 an increase of €1.5bn on 2020 levels.
“Of these 20,000 public homes, 12,000 would be real social homes - 2,000 more that proposed by government.
“8,000 would be genuinely affordable homes for working people, evenly split between affordable cost rental homes and affordable purchase homes.
“Affordable homes for €230,000 or less will be available to purchase in Dublin, the commuter belt and other major urban areas.
“Across the rest of the state, affordable homes for €220,000 or less would be delivered.
“Households' eligibility for affordable housing would be set at a gross income of €55,000 for a single person and €85,000 for a couple.
“For those wishing to rent an affordable home in the long-term or while saving to try and purchase a home, affordable cost rental homes will be available for between €700 and €900 per month depending on household size and income.
“Our plan is ambitious, costed, and urgently needed to help an entire generation of first-time buyers to gain access to homeownership.
“Our plan would also be available to second-time buyers who lost their homes through repossession, relationship breakdown or those trapped in negative equity properties who need to trade up due to family size.
“Despite promises from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil during confidence and supply not a single affordable home to rent or buy has been delivered to date under any central government funded scheme.
“This must change and Sinn Féin has the plan to do it.”
Sinn Féin MLA Sinead Ennis has welcomed the announcement by Caral Ni Chuilin that £1m will be used to purchase 2,500 free COVID packs for sports clubs.
The Sinn Féin Culture, Arts and Sport Spokesperson said:
“The COVID19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact across all sections of society, with our sports clubs being particularly hard hit.
“I welcome the announcement today by Communities Minister Caral Ni Chuilin that £1m will be used to purchase 2,500 COVID packs to support sports clubs to return safely, these packs will be free and distributed on a first come first serve basis.
"Packs will be made up of essential cleansing products and vital information to protect clubs.
“Sports clubs have played an instrumental role in supporting the most vulnerable in our communities throughout the COVID19 pandemic and it is great that the Communities Minister is supporting them at this difficult time.
“I would encourage sports clubs to regiser their interest in a pack by following the below link."
“Regional Aid in jeopardy” - Chris MacManus MEP urges engagement in review process
Sinn Féin MEP believes it is vital that local councils & development agencies engage in Regional Aid Guidelines review
Midlands Northwest MEP Chris MacManus has highlighted the importance of local development authorities having their say on the upcoming review of the Regional Aid Guidelines.
“It is vital that we engage now, so our communities can benefit from this funding. I have written to all eligible councils in my constituency to inform them of the submission process and I am encouraging any other development or enterprise agencies to please put forward their suggestions. Submissions can be made at this link https://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2019_gber_deminimis/index_en.html
The Sinn Féin MEP outlined the importance of engaging with the process. “The Regional Aid Guidelines allow each Member State to provide enhanced rates of State Aid in the least economically developed areas of the country. The majority of councils in Midlands Northwest are eligible for regional State Aid but many experts are predicting that Ireland may be one of the biggest losers under new proposals, that is why it is imperative that each County protects their own status by engaging with Europe and the government on this issue.”
MacManus concluded “It is crucial that we protect this funding for our communities. The deadline for submissions is the 30th September, so submissions need to be made in the very near future. ” ENDS
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West Mark Ward has called information he received stating that since Covid started in March, Community Gardai have been on a “contingency roster” introduced by the commissioner Drew Harris, as an abandonment of our community.
This has meant that the community policing unit was only working to 7pm each evening and had left communities extremely vulnerable.
Teachta Ward said: “Over the last couple of months, I have noticed an increase in anti-social behaviour and other illegal activity not just in my area of Dublin Mid-West, but right across Dublin.
“Our communities are under nightly attacks by the misuse of fireworks. We have elderly residents afraid to leave their homes, shop keepers fearful for their customers and staff.
“We have seen an increase in open drug dealing and anti-social behaviour and it has an impact on how safe our communities feel for residents.
“Information I received from Dublin Bus shows an increase of bus curtailments due to anti-social behaviour. In fact, there has been a 200% increase on the number of incidents where bus drivers had to stop their journey because of attacks with fireworks and other missiles.
“There is a real sense of fear and abandonment in our communities, and residents reported a lack of police presence in our areas particularly at night-time.
“Some Sinn Féin colleagues and I have been looking into this lack of community garda presence at night-time, and what we discovered is quite shocking.
“Since Covid started in March, community Gardai have been on a “contingency roster” introduced by the commissioner Drew Harris. This has meant that community policing unit was only working to 7pm each evening.
“So basically, since March no community Gardai have operated after 7pm each night. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to attribute the increase in illegal activity in our areas to a decrease in policing presence.
“This decision to reduce the nighttime hours that community Gardai work was a national decision and does not only impact Dublin but the whole country.
“Our communities have been abandoned by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens.
“This contingency roster introduced by the Commissioner has had a direct impact on community safety.
“Community Gardai are frustrated and feel that they cannot carry out their duties. Community Gardai in Dublin have already seen their numbers decimated from 508 in 2010 to 278 in 2020.
“This manifested itself at the weekend when it took Gardai five hours to react to an open-air party in Oliver Bond that had open drug use and went against all public health advice.
“I would like to know why this decision was made, what consultation did Drew Harris carry out with other community stakeholders and how long are our communities going to be abandoned?"
Sinn Féin MLA Emma Sheerin has called for more action to be taken to tackle misogyny following the publishing of a survey on women in politics.
The Mid Ulster MLA said:
“The publishing of a survey which has shown the overwhelming majority of female MLAs have suffered from misogyny at some stage in their political life is extremely concerning.
“It is particularly concerning that the findings show 1/4 of respondents have experienced sexual harassment.
“There has been great work done across this island to dismantle social and economic barriers which have for too long acted as obstacles for women entering political and public life.
“However, there is much more work needed to ensure that women feel safe, confident and comfortable in political and public life.
”The eradication of misogyny will be central to this.
“Sinn Féin will continue to work to ensure equal opportunities exist for females in politics, and that misogyny and all forms of discrimination are consigned to the bin.
“I would encourage any woman who has been a victim of sexual harassment or abuse in their workplace to report it to the relevant authorities.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Nichola Bradley has called for statutory agencies to work to provide maximum support for those suffering from mental illness.
The Oldpark Councillor said:
“This afternoon, I was made aware of an incident involving a distressed male in the Oldpark area.
“I attended the scene and established immediate contact with the police to offer the support and assistance of the local community.
“There is an obligation on all agencies to work in partnership to provide maximum support and assistance to people that are in mental distress.
“My thoughts are with the young man’s family and I hope that he makes a full recovery.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has extended the condolences of the party to the Willis family following the tragic death of Michael Willis in Donegal.
The West Belfast MP said:
“The community of West Belfast was heartbroken to learn of the loss of Michael Willis following a tragic accident in Donegal.
“The Willis family are a well known and respected Republican family in the Colin area, with Michael’s mother Veronica having been a Sinn Féin Councillor.
“The community of the Colin and West Belfast will rally around the Willis family to offer whatever support we can to assist them at this time of great difficulty.
“On behalf of Sinn Féin, I would like to extend condolences to Michael’s mother Veronica, his father Michael and all the Willis family.
"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis."
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has called on the British government to bring forward support for workers and businesses forced to reclose as a result of Covid19.
The Party’s Health Spokesperson said:
“The British government must bring forward a package to support workers and local businesses who have been forced to close their doors again as a result of Covid19.
“I know of local business-people who have had to close over the weekend to self-isolate while awaiting Covid19 test results.
“Local businesses are already at a cliff-edge and this only places more strain with a loss of income during the high streets busiest time. Support must be brought forward now.
“The furlough scheme has been a lifeline for workers and families over the last six months and has protected tens of thousands of jobs in the north. It must be extended.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney calling on the government to welcome and support the recent conference held in Ramallah and Beirut involving all the main Palestinian political forces aimed at bringing about a new unified initiative.
"I have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister asking that the Irish government acknowledge, welcome and support the recent significant and major development in Palestine which has brought together all the main Palestinian forces and political parties in a unified approach to their plight.
"Sinn Féin believes this offers the greatest potential to bring about a comprehensive peace agreement in the region based on the legitimate national and human rights of all Palestinians.
"I have also called on the Irish government to recognise the State of Palestine, and to use its position and influence in the European Council to:
"The people of Palestine need international support. They also need international action. Ongoing Israeli violations of international law and universal rights conventions must be exposed, condemned and effectively responded to.
"The Irish government should play a positive role in this process, ensuring a permanent, credible and just peace is created in the Middle East."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has commented this evening on the announcement by the ASTI that they are to ballot their members for industrial action.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
"The issues that the ASTI have raised are issues that can and must be resolved. Sinn Féin identified the need to apply effective social distancing and protect school staff at high-risk as key priorities in a document we submitted to the Department of Education two weeks ago called 'Keeping Schools Open'.
"We proposed an audit of school buildings to identify schools under the most pressure to achieve social distancing and proposed a fund for schools to build, acquire modular units, or rent space to reduce the pupil teacher ratio. The fact is that reopening schools safely has been challenging because we have an education system that is overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed.
"We have also raised the issue of high-risk staff. It is unconscionable that teachers who are at high-risk or who have relatives at home who are high-risk are being forced to work in an environment in which they do not feel safe. There are solutions to be found.
"We also agree that the unequal pay rates between teachers is unacceptable and unsustainable.
"These issues have been on the agenda for weeks now. It is unacceptable that the Department of Education has allowed things to get to this point; with the ASTI now seeing no alternative but to ballot their members for industrial action.
"I absolutely believe that a strike can be avoided, but the government now needs to take action. They need to engage urgently with the ASTI and other school staff unions (INTO, TUI and Fórsa) to address the issues that have been raised."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers’ Rights Louise O’Reilly TD has said that increased supports need to be provided for workers affected by new Covid-19 restrictions in Dublin city and county.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Many workers and businesses in Dublin city and county got the devastating news last night that they would not be able to work or operate as a result of public health measures introduced to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
“The implementation of these restrictions has meant that workers in some sectors are today without work and could be for the next three weeks.
“Due to the mean spirited decision of the government to cut the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) this week, some of these workers could be left in a perilous situation until restrictions are lifted.
“Sinn Féin has consistently called for the PUP to remain at €350 per week for all those whose employment was affected by Covid-19 until the end of 2020, and with these affected workers in mind it is now more important than ever for the government to reinstate the €350 rate.
“We must remember that all workers in receipt of the PUP are accessing this payment because their workplace has been shut down through no fault of their own because of Covid-19, and they deserve fair treatment and the full support of the State.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Magennis and Orlaithi Flynn MLA have contacted the PSNI to raise concerns over an incident in the Colin Area.
The Colin Councillor said:
“This morning I was contacted by a local family following an incident involving the PSNI at a family communion event in the Colin Area of West Belfast.
“The family have raised concerns over the conduct of the PSNI which resulted in a disabled man being hospitalised and pepper spray allegedly being used.
“Footage provided to Sinn Féin representatives shows the PSNI physically restraining some of those at the party.
“Myself and Sinn Féin MLA Orlaithí Flynn will be seeking an urgent meeting with the local PSNI District Commander to raise questions over the conduct of officers.
“Órlaithí Flynn MLA will also be engaging with Sinn Féin policing representative Gerry Kelly to raise this incident at the Policing Board.
“Sinn Féin will remain in close contact with the family and ensure that their concerns are heard and that questions are answered.”