(Gaeilge thíos/Irish below)
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has offered congratulations on behalf of Sinn Féin to all the film-makers, creative workers, actors and crew who played a part in the films which received nominations for last night’s 95th Academy Awards (Oscars) in Los Angeles.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:
“Last night will go down in the history books as a pivotal moment for Irish cinema. Our 14 Oscar nominations in total – including two wins – come on the back of a remarkable year of successes, accolades and recognition from around the world.
“They stand as a testament to the high quality of output and sheer dedication which can be seen in the work produced by Irish talent in recent years.
“As a Dub, it gives me particular joy to congratulate Tallaght-native Richard Baneham on his receipt of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for the incredible work he did on Avatar: The Way of Water along with his colleagues Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett.
“An Irish Goodbye winning Best Live-Action Short will similarly be celebrated across Derry, Saintfield and Templepatrick as wins for the whole community, but in particular for Tom Berkeley, Ross White, the cast, crew and creators who made it happen, yet another example of the creative genius of our island. Those of us who stayed up til the early hours last night were overjoyed to get to join with the chorus in LA’s Dolby Theatre singing Happy Birthday to James Martin whose starring role sees him now taking home a statuette.
“While we offer commiserations to those nominees who weren’t so lucky in their categories, they are all winners in our books, having given Ireland such hope, confidence, and cinematic excellence.
“As spokesperson for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht, I must give special mention to the nomination for An Cailín Ciúin as Best International Picture, which marked a particular high point of achievement at a global level for the dynamic and ever-growing Irish language film sector, and shows what can come from investment in the Irish language.
“Sometimes it takes being recognised for excellence beyond our shores for Irish people at home to realise the value of our unique cultural and linguistic heritage. This remarkable achievement has instilled pride in all those who love our language, whether they speak it or not, and will surely inspire generations to come to unleash their creative potential as Gaeilge.
“The plethora of nominations for The Banshees of Inisherin – the most Oscar-nominated film in Irish history – is a credit to the acting talent, those responsible for the amazing soundtrack, the superb editing, and the incredible writing and direction of Martin McDonagh.
“It has also been a particular cause for celebration on Achill Island and Inis Mór whose communities and natural beauty played an invaluable part in making a film possible that has now garnered 9 nominations.
“That is not to forget the contribution Irish talent has made to films made outside Ireland which has been recognised through these nominations, from Paul Mescal’s outstanding acting in Aftersun to the brilliant editing by Jonathan Redmond on Elvis.
“We in Sinn Féin congratulate all our winners and nominees on the fruits of their work, and we look forward to seeing what they and Irish cinema do next and promise our support to build on the achievements of last night for the future.”
Guíonn Sinn Féin comhghairdeas ar lucht scannánaíochta na hÉireann as an éacht bainte amach ag na Gradaim Oscair – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD
Ghabh urlabhraí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta, Ealaíon agus Cultúir, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, comhghairdeas thar cheann Sinn Féin leo siúd go léir, déantóirí scannáin, oibrithe cruthaitheacha, aisteoirí agus criú, a bhí baint acu leis na scannáin a fuair ainmniúcháin don 95ú Gradaim an Acadaimh (Oscars) aréir i gCathair na nAingeal.
Dúirt an Teachta Ó Snodaigh:
“Mairfidh oíche aréir sna leabhair staire mar pointe cinniúnach don scannánaíocht Éireannach. Tagann an 14 ainmniúcháin iomlán Oscair – 2 buanna ina measc – tar bliain dochreidte gaisce, buanna agus aitheantas as gach chearn den domhain.
“Léiriú ar ardchaighdeán aschur agus fíordhíogras atá le feiceáil leis na blianta beaga anuas sa mhéid atá déanta ag tallann na hÉireann is ea iad.
“Mar Bhleá Cliathach, is cúis áthais é go háirithe comhghairdeas a rá le Richard Baneham Tamhlachta as Gradam Acadaimh a fháil don Mhaisíocht Físe is Fearr a fháil don sárobair déanta aige ar Avatar: The Way of Water in éineacht lena chomhghleacaithe Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon agus Daniel Barrett.
“Déanfar ceiliúradh freisin i nDoire, i dTamhnaigh Naomh agus i dTeampall Phádraig ar bhua An Irish Goodby mar Ghearrscannán Beo-Aicsin is Fearr mar bhua don phobal uile, ach go háirithe do Tom Berkeley agus Ross White, don chliar, don chriú, agus do na cruthaitheoirí atá freagrach as, sampla eile de shárbhua cruthaitheach ár n-oileáin. Dúinn a d’fhan inár ndúiseacht go moch ar maidin, chur sé gliondar inár gcroíthe an deis a bheith againn canadh in éindí leo siúd a bhí in Amharclann Dolby LA ag guí Breithlá Sona ar James Martin atá anois ag tabhairt deilbhín ar ais abhaile leis as ucht a phríomhpháirt sa scannán sin.
“Cé go ndéanann muid comhbhrón leis na hainmniúcháin sin nár éirigh leo ina gcatagóirí féin, is buaiteoirí iad go léir dar linn, tar éis an méid sin dóchas, muinín agus barrfheabhas scannánaíochta a thabhairt don tír.
“Mar urlabhraí don Ghaeilge agus don Ghaeltacht, ní mór dom ach go háirithe ainimniúcháin an Chailín Ciúin mar an Fhadscannán Idirnáisiúnta is Fearr a lua. Buaicphointe ar scála domhanda atá bainte amach léi don éarnáil bríomhar scannáin Gaeilge atá fós ag fás, agus léiriú is ea ar cad a thagann ó infheistíocht sa teanga.
“Uaireanta teastaíonn aitheantas thar sáile don bharr feabhais ionas go dtuigfidh Éireannaigh sa bhaile an luach a bhaineann lenár n-oidhreacht aonarach cultúir agus teanga. Ábhar bróid a bheidh sa ghaisce dochreidte seo dóibh siúd go léir ar aoibhinn leo ár dteanga, iad siúd a labhraíonn í chomh maith leo siúd nach labhraíonn, agus is cinnte go spreagfaidh sí na glúnta amach romhainn a mianach iomlán cruthaitheach a fhorbairt trí mheán na Gaeilge.
“Is mór an chreidiúint iad an flúirse ainmniúcháin do The Banshees of Inisherin – an scannáin is mó ainmniúcháin Oscar i stair na hÉireann – dá scoth-oirfidigh, dóibh siúd atá freagrach as an bhfuaimrian, don scotheagarthóireacht, agus don scríbhneoireacht agus léiriúchán dochreidte ag Martin McDonagh.
“Cúis ceiliúradh atá ann do mhuintir Acla agus Inis Mór freisin toisc gur aitheantas atá ann don ról lárnach a bhí ag pobail agus áilleacht na háite i gcruthú scannán atá 9 ainmniúcháin anois bainte amach aige.
“Sin gan faillí a dhéanamh ar an ionchur atá déanta ag tallann na hÉireann ar scannáin déanta lasmuigh d’Éireann atá aitheanta sna hainmniúcháin seo, ó sáraisteoireacht Phaul Mescal in Aftersun go heagarthóireacht iontach Jonathan Redmond ar Elvis.
“Comhghairdeas ó Shinn Féin dár gcuid buaiteoirí agus ainmniúcháin go léir as torthaí a gcuid oibre. Táimid ag tnúth go mór an céad céim eile atá le glacadh acu agus ag scannánaíocht na hÉireann a fheiceáil agus geallann muid gach tacaíocht dóibh chun tógáil ar na gaiscí a baineadh amach aréir don todhchaí.”
Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins has said an Executive is needed now to help families in need of care packages and to invest in the under-pressure health service.
Commenting on reports from the Department of Health that 2,780 people are waiting for a care package, the party’s social care spokesperson said:
“The sharp decline in the number of care packages delivered over the winter is deeply concerning and impacting on families who are badly in need of support to take care of their loved ones.
“With over 2,700 people on a waiting list, staff are also facing huge challenges due to lack of resources and understaffing. This needs to be urgently addressed.
“Families and health workers need a health minister in place and an Executive working together to invest in the health service, to hire more staff and tackle waiting lists now.”
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon is encouraging anyone who suffered historical institutional abuse in the north to reach out for help and support.
The Mid Ulster MLA said:
"Many victims and survivors of institutional abuse aren't aware of the support that is out there for them, and the compensation that they are entitled to.
"The process of applying for compensation can be confusing, and it can be re-traumatising, but support is available through the Victims and Survivors Service and the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse.
"It is important that victims receive the compensation that they are entitled to, that is their right and I would encourage victims and survivors to come forward and avail of this support."
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urging him to reverse his government's decision to lift the eviction ban.
Ms McDonald said that it is the responsibility of the Taoiseach to tell the thousands of families who face eviction in the next few weeks where they are supposed to go.
She urged him instead to extend the eviction ban and to put in place a package of emergency measures to prevent these families becoming homeless.
Teachta McDonald said:
"It is clear from the eviction notice figures released by the Residential Tenancies Board last Friday that the government's decision to lift the Eviction Ban must be reversed. The clock is now ticking for thousands of families whose eviction notices kick-in from when the government lifts the ban on April 1st.
"It is the responsibility of the Taoiseach to answer the question - where are these families supposed to go? Where are the thousands more families who will receive eviction notices in the coming months supposed to go?
“Properties available to rent are at an all-time low, there is a shortage of affordable accommodation, and we know the emergency accommodation system in many areas is at maximum capacity. Families are running out of options. This situation is a staggering escalation in a housing crisis that was already out of control.
"The government decided to lift the eviction ban without any plan to protect thousands of households who will be evicted through no fault of their own.
“In the last week, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, and several senior government ministers have all been asked where these families are supposed to go. Not one of them answered the question. They dodged the question while acknowledging that the decision to lift the ban will increase record levels of homelessness.
“With eyes wide open, the Taoiseach is watching these evictions approaching, and not only is he sitting on his hands, but he is also hell-bent on following through with a political choice that he knows spells disaster for thousands of working families. It is a cruel decision. It is dangerous, and it is unacceptable.
“Leo Varadkar is head of government. The buck stops with him. He must tell these families, now living with a real, immediate, and overwhelming worry of eviction, where they are supposed to go on April 1st?
"The Taoiseach must extend the ban and put in place a package of emergency measures aimed at preventing families becoming homeless.”
Sinn Féin MLA Cathy Mason has called for action from the British Government in the upcoming budget statement to address what is becoming a crisis in childcare costs and provision.
Speaking after writing to the British Chancellor ahead of the budget announcement on Wednesday, the party’s childcare spokesperson said:
"Childcare costs in the north are completely out of control.
"For some working families, who are less likely to meet the criteria for funded childcare, the cost of childcare is equivalent to a second mortgage.
"The high cost of childcare means that many parents, particularly mothers, can’t afford to work or take up training opportunities.
"Childcare costs should be reduced for all working parents and the cost of childcare made affordable but this requires proper public investment from the British Government.
”Sinn Féin has written to the British Chancellor calling for action in the upcoming budget statement to address what is becoming a crisis in childcare costs and provision."
Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has called on the Department for Education to ensure families receive vital holiday payments over the Easter school holidays.
The party’s education spokesperson said:
“Uncertainty over whether families will be paid holiday hunger payments over the Easter school holidays is deeply concerning.
“These payments are a lifeline for families that depend on free school meals and help ensure that children get a hot meal during school holidays.
“Many families are already struggling to put food on the table as living costs continue to rise, and stripping this payment away will only add to the hardship they face.
“The Department of Education must ensure that funding for this vital support is protected and is available to families over Easter.
“We need an Executive formed now and parties working together around the table to tackle holiday hunger, support families and legislate to end the constant cliff-edge over these payments.”
The East Derry MLA said:
"As it stands, groups funded by the European Social Fund face a cliff-edge at the end of March, and jobs and services from which thousands in our communities benefit will be lost.
"Time is running out for these organisations, their workers and those who use their services.
“The British Government’s failure to fully replace lost EU funding is having a damaging impact on vital services.
"I am calling again on the British Government to fully replace this money and to act now to help these organisations facing a cliff-edge at the end of this month.
“Community and voluntary workers also need an Executive up and running without any delay.
“Sinn Féin has called for departments to step up and extend the existing funding they provide for a year on a pro-rata basis to provide some space to groups waiting on decisions, and to use that time to develop a longer-term scheme."
Sinn Fein spokesperson Justice, Martin Kenny TD, has written to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris seeking clarity on facilities in Garda stations for families seeking emergency accommodation.
The government this week announced an end to the eviction ban which may leave some families with no alternative but to seek emergency accommodation in their local Garda station.
Speaking today, Teachta Kenny said:
“The ending of the eviction ban is happening at a time when emergency accommodation in many areas is at maximum capacity.
"Just this week, South Dublin County Council informed one family that they will have to present at their local Garda station due to the lack of suitable accommodation.
“This is absolutely outrageous. In the months that the eviction ban has been in place, very little has been done by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to offer mid-to-long-term solutions for families who are going to be evicted.
“Telling families to present at their local Garda station should not be an option. Across the board we all agree that children bedding down in a station is completely unsuitable.
“This will cause immeasurable distress and trauma to the families involved, but also to the Gardaí who will be doing their best to support the families.
“I have written to the Garda Commissioner to ask for clarity on what facilities or resources will be available to families and the Gardaí supporting them.
“Government are expecting Gardaí - who are already understaffed and overstretched - to care for families who are in an unimaginable situation.
“This is a clear failure of government housing policy which continues to favour big developers and institutional landlords.
“Garda stations act as places of safety for victims of crime, and places of detention for criminals. A station cannot become an emergency accommodation hub because government has failed to provide safe and secure housing for workers and families."
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has said the British Government should get on with delivering fair pay for health and social care workers.
Speaking at the SOS NHS demonstration in London today, the party’s health spokesperson said:
“Our health service is in crisis on the back of 12 years of savage Tory cuts which has underfunded and undermined our public services.
“Money has been stripped out of vital public services, while big energy companies who have ripped people off with scandalous prices are rewarded with billions in profits. That’s not a fair deal.
“Health and social care workers should not have been forced onto the streets in the freezing cold for fair pay and safe working conditions.
“Without fair pay and safe working conditions, it becomes much tougher to retain skilled health workers and that needs to be addressed through increased investment.
“Rishi Sunak’s Tory government needs to end the attacks on our health service and bring forward a deal that meets the needs of workers now.”
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD, and Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill MLA, will travel to the United States next week to attend the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations hosted by President Biden in the White House, and the Speakers Lunch on Capitol Hill.
They will also participate in events to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and brief the US Administration and senior Congressional leaders. They will also attend events with business leaders to promote significant investment opportunities in Ireland.
Ms. McDonald said:
“Our message in the US is one of hope and opportunity as we mark twenty-five years of the Good Friday Agreement; a peace accord that has transformed the entire country.
"The role of the US Administration was critical twenty-five years ago in achieving peace, just as it was critical throughout the negotiations on the Irish Protocol, and will be critical in the coming decade as we prepare for referenda on Irish Unity.
“With the eyes of the world on Ireland once again in the coming weeks, there is a huge opportunity to showcase our island and the societal and generational change that is underway.
"We have the youngest population in Europe with a highly skilled, educated and enormously productive workforce.
"Ireland is a hub for international talent. We are open for business, for collaboration and for progress.
"For many international partners, Ireland is the bridge to the European market and system.
"Its unique and unparalleled access to both the EU and British markets, along with a flourishing all-Ireland economy, gives the north real economic momentum and competitive advantage.
"But to turn that opportunity into jobs and investment requires a functioning Executive.
“With a deal done on the Protocol we believe that power-sharing can be restored in the coming weeks, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
"It is time for the DUP to get back on board and work alongside the other parties.
“During the trip we will brief members of the US Administration and senior Congressional Leaders and attend events hosted by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, Georgetown University, IBEC and the newly appointed Special Envoy Joe Kennedy.”
Note to Editors:
Among the events the Sinn Féin leaders will attend are the following:
Monday 13th - Mary Lou McDonald will participate in a panel discussion organised by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
Michelle O’Neill address to Brehon Law society in New York.
Wednesday 15th - Breakfast meeting with Special Envoy Joe Kennedy III, and a roundtable meeting with the Atlantic Council.
Thursday 16th - Mary Lou McDonald will brief Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.
Michelle O’Neill will address an event hosted by Georgetown University at 9.30am and address the Washington Press Club at 1.45pm (to be streamed online).
Friday 17th - Meet with Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and briefing with the Ad-Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement.
Attend Speakers Lunch on Capitol Hill and St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the White House.
During the week they will also attend the IBEC dinner in Washington, and the Ireland Fund event to honour Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy, and Majority Leader in the US Senate Chuck Schumer.
Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has welcomed an open letter from business leaders in support of the agreement on the protocol and for a restored Executive.
The party’s economy spokesperson said:
"The open letter from business leaders to the British Prime Minister in support of the agreement on the protocol is a welcome intervention.
"The letter describes the agreement as the 'most sustainable path forward' and calls for a restored Executive to focus on the economic opportunities of our unique access to the EU single market and British market.
"That is a competitive advantage which is the envy of economies everywhere and we need an Executive in place to deliver on its potential.
"The eyes of the world are upon the north of Ireland as we mark 25 years of transformative peace on this island, and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in a matter of weeks.
"We must not miss the opportunity that comes with that and which the overwhelming majority of people and businesses want to seize.
"Sinn Féin is ready to work with all the other parties and to immediately restore Government that will work for people."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Pearse Doherty TD, has said that action must be taken to tackle investment scams and financial fraud.
This comes as FraudSMART warns of the worrying rise in investment scams being carried out by fraudsters.
Teachta Doherty said:
“Financial fraud and scams are on the rise, with citizens being robbed of millions of euros by fraudsters.
“The latest warning by FraudSMART and the Banking and Payments Federation regarding a rise in highly convincing investment scams is another wake up call for action.
“These investment scams using brochures circulated online are targeting over-55s with a minimum investment of €20,000 – these transactions are theft, pure and simple.
“These scams are being advertised online, on social media and by email.
“We need to ask when online platforms and social media companies will take responsibility for the fraudulent content that is being advertised on their platforms and robbing citizens of thousands of euro.
“There is no requirement for online platforms and social media companies to pay compensation to victims of fraud – that needs to change.
“There is also no requirement for payment service providers to pay compensation to victims of authorised push payment fraud.
“And we have no system to cross-check the name of the person victims send their money to against the name on the actual account.
“This is called Confirmation of Payee and has been introduced successfully in Britain and the Netherlands to reduce fraud.
“These are actions that can be introduced to protect potential victims of scams and fraud.
“It is time to give this issue the attention it deserves.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD, has called on government to immediately reverse the decision not to extend the eviction ban.
The call comes as the Residential Tenancies Board released data showing that 4741 eviction notices were served on tenants from July to September 2022.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“The figures released by the Residential Tenancies Board today are truly shocking and seriously worrying. From July to September last year, 4,741 eviction notices were served by landlords on their tenants.
“This compares with 1,132 eviction notices from January to March and 1,666 from April to June last year.
“The latest figures show that the sale of homeless risk from April 1st, when the government’s ban on evictions ends, is much worse than expected.
“Notices issued from July to September would have, in many cases, fallen due from February during the ban period. A huge number of these notices will now fall due in April.
“This will mean more people than ever before will have to leave their rental homes. There is simply no way that homeless services will be able to cope with this level of need.
“The consequence will be thousands of people forced to stay with family and friends or overhold in their rental accommodation. It will also see a rise in rough sleeping and the prospect of families with children being referred to Garda stations for a safe place to sleep.
“These numbers are a direct consequence of government failure.
“For years they have over relied on the private rental sector to meet social and affordable housing need.
“For six years, single property landlords have been leaving the market.
“Despite this, government has abjectly failed to deliver a sufficient volume of social and affordable housing, or to purchase private rental accommodation with tenants in situ.
‘The consequence is the number of singles, couples, families with children and pensions facing the harsh reality of homelessness in a matter of weeks.
“Government must immediately reverse the decision to end the ban on evictions. Emergency legislation must be brought before the Dáil before the ban ends on March 31st and all renters must be given the protection they deserve.
“The government must also accompany the extension of the ban on evictions with a package of emergency measures to extend and expand the tenant in situ scheme for social and affordable rental and using emergency planning and procurement powers to target vacant and derelict homes and new building technologies to ramp up the delivery of public housing.”
The RTB figures can be read here.
Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has said outstanding problems caused by the British government’s Nationality and Borders Bill must be addressed, including its detrimental impact on all-Ireland tourism.
The South Down MP said:
“Despite necessary changes being made, serious concerns remain about the British government’s regressive Nationality and Borders Bill and its clear and present threat to local tourism which relies heavily on visitors travelling from the south.
“With around 70% of tourists in the north arriving into Ireland via Dublin, this legislation directly threatens £250 million that’s spent in the local economy. The visa-waiver document for journeys across the border will impact more than a half a million tourists annually.
“It is incredulous that the British government continues to ignore the voice of our local tourism industry, who understandably, are worried that this legislation will seriously undermine local tourism.
“Sinn Féin raised the damaging impacts of this legislation yesterday directly with the Taoiseach in Dublin and urged the Irish government to use its influence to address these concerns.
“It’s clear this will have a negative impact on the all-island economy. I call again on the British government to ensure this Act does not go ahead in its current form given its damaging impact on the lives of people here.”
Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has welcomed that the British government has dropped plans to require non-Irish EU citizens resident in the South to apply for a visa waiver scheme when travelling to the North of Ireland.
However, the party’s Seanad leader said outstanding problems caused by the legislation must be addressed.
Speaking today, Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said:
“It is welcome that the British government appears to have dropped this appalling and totally unworkable proposal, but concerns remain that this small step will not solve the overall problems caused by this regressive legislation.
“The Tories’ Nationality & Borders Act introduced the unacceptable prospect of visa requirements for certain people travelling across this island.
“Pushing this through would be an affront to the Good Friday Agreement and would cause untold damage to community, societal and business relations on the island.
“In May last year the Seanad unanimously supported my motion rejecting the imposition of an electronic travel waiver on non-Irish and non-British citizens who wish to travel south to north.
“It’s clear that this will have a negative impact on the all-island economy, and I would urge the British government to ensure this Act does not go ahead in its current form given its damaging impact on the lives of people here.”
Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow, John Brady, has reacted with concern that firefighters responding to the fire at Wexford General Hospital last week, which led to the evacuation of over 200 patients, were left dangerously understaffed.
Just one fire tender, containing just two firefighters, was available to tackle the blaze for close to 20 minutes before help arrived.
This was a consequence of the failure of the government to address the ongoing crisis in the Retained Fire Service.
Teachta Brady said:
“It is important to acknowledge the courage and selflessness of the retained firefighters who were among the first on the scene of the fire at Wexford General Hospital last week, and the hospital staff who came to their aid.
“The Retained Fire Service in Wexford Town has been left understaffed through the failure of government to respond to the crisis in the service.
"There are nine firefighters, and two officers at the Wexford Fire Station, which is four staff short of the recommended number of 15 staff for a two-pump station.
“On the day of the fire at Wexford General Hospital, one fire tender from Wexford Town responded, with a crew of seven, five in the fire tender, and two more in a jeep to a road traffic accident in Enniscorthy.
“This left two staff at the fire station. The two remaining firefighters - a driver and an acting station officer - responded to the emergency call out to Wexford General Hospital.
“For approximately 20 minutes, they were forced to tackle the fire on their own before assistance arrived, with only hospital staff to assist them. Hospital porters helped in pulling hoses from the fire engine into the hospital and carried out other firefighter duties.
“In a clip on RTÉ News, a uniformed member of the hospital staff can be clearly seen pulling fire hoses from the back of a fire engine and proceeding into the hospital with them.”
Sinn Féin TD for Wexford, Johnny Mythen, praised the courage and the selflessness of both the retained firefighters and the hospital staff, who despite being understaffed, were there in the first critical moments of the fire to orchestrate a response until assistance arrived.
Deputies Brady and Mythen expressed further concern at the dangers of the understaffed retained fire station in the town, particularly considering Wexford Town, which has a population of over 60,000, is also home to large factories and industrial plants, including the Coca Cola plant and Rosslare Euro port.
They argued that Wexford Town should have a full-time service as opposed to a part-time retained fire service.
Teachta Brady, who introduced a Dáil Motion on the Retained Fire Service in November added:
“In November I introduced a motion in the Dáil designed to address the core issues that lie at the heart of the Retained Fire Service after considerable consultation with representatives from the Retained Fire Service.
“The government, led by Minister Darragh O’Brien, opposed the motion, promising instead to lead out instead on a full review which would address the core issues impacting on the Retained Fire Fighter Service.
“This has not had the desired effect. The Retained Fire Service is still having to deal with the impact of the recruitment and retention crisis, which, but for the courage and initiative of two firefighters in Wexford may well have led to serious repercussions.
“The Minister needs to immediately address the issues which are at the heart of the crisis in the service, his continuing failure to do so is endangering the lives of retained firefighters and members of the public.
“I am further calling on the Minister to investigate how the recruitment and retention issues in the Retained Fire Service impacted on the emergency response to the serious fire at Wexford General Hospital, which could have just as easily ended with catastrophic consequences.
“The Minister must heed this warning, and immediately implement the recommendations contained in the report into the Retained Fire Service published by his department late last year.”
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Martin Kenny TD expressed deep concern at figures which reveal soaring Garda resignations. His comments come as figures released to his office in a parliamentary question show 104 Gardaí resigned in 2022, up from 24 in 2016, and with initial 2023 trends suggesting these figures are set to rise even higher.
Speaking today, Teachta Kenny said:
“Figures released to me reveal soaring resignations among Gardaí. 24 resigned in 2016, yet this has more than quadrupled to 104 in 2022. The figures for January 2023 suggest that this trend is continuing as the retention crisis in the Gardaí is deepening.
“Eleven rank-and-file members and one sergeant left An Garda Síochána in January 2023, and the figures for February have not been released to me yet. If these initial 2023 figures continue throughout this year, then we could be looking at losing almost 150 members this year.
“Considering fewer than 100 new Gardaí attested last year, An Garda Síochána are not even running to stand still at this point. This is a crisis and the government is asleep at the wheel.
“The blame here should not be laid at the feet of rank-and-file Gardaí, they are not the ones causing this retention issue, but they are the ones who are so badly affected by the current work conditions that they face daily as they protect our communities.
“Many Gardaí feel demoralised, overworked and under-resourced. Recent attacks on Gardaí have left officers shocked and worried about their safety. Communities deserve to feel safe and protected. They need to know that if they need the Gardaí, there will be enough officers available to come to their assistance.
“I have questioned the Minister repeatedly on this matter and the response is usually to ‘put these resignations in context’. I’m sorry to say that the context now is that resignations are continuing at an alarming rate which tells me there is a serious issue. And the government response to it is to stick their heads in the sand.
“Fine Gael have had responsibility for the Department of Justice for over a decade, and have now single-handedly seen the largest increase in Garda resignations since 2016. The government need to get to grips with the recruitment and retention crisis in the force.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Pearse Doherty TD, has said that the government’s cold and cruel decision to lift the eviction ban will drive more families into homelessness with nowhere to go.
The Donegal TD challenged Tánaiste Micheál Martin on the government’s decision in the Dáil today.
Teachta Doherty said:
“The government’s latest policy shift is to end the eviction ban that was helping to keep a roof over the heads of many workers and families.
“Many families, through no fault of their own, face eviction now because of this government’s decision.
“These are people who have paid their rent on time, month after month, year after year.
“Those being made homeless are being told by their local councils that they have no emergency accommodation for them.
“Today I raised a letter from a Dublin council to Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward, about a family with two children who presented as homeless.
“The council told them that there was no emergency accommodation for them in the local authority or the entire county of Dublin; and recommended that they present themselves to their local Garda station.
“This was when the eviction ban was in place.
“More people will be evicted and made homeless as a direct result of the government’s decision to lift the eviction ban.
“Today the Tánaiste failed to tell me and the Dáil where these families will go.
“This government has condemned families to eviction and homelessness with nowhere to go.”
First Minister Elect Michelle O’Neill told business leaders today that now is the time to grasp the economic opportunities presented through access to the British and EU single markets.
Michelle O’Neill was speaking at an event organised by the Belfast Chamber of Commerce in the Europa Hotel. She said:
“I welcome the negotiated outcome agreed by the European Commission and Westminster government last week.
“We must now grasp our unique and unparalleled access to both the EU and British markets, which gives us real economic momentum and competitive advantage.
“The deal is now done. It is time to get back to business.
“There is a particular onus now on the DUP to get back on board and make politics work.
“The eyes of the world are on us as we mark 25 years in April of transformative peace on this island, and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
“If we are to grasp these opportunities, we need a functioning Executive. And time is of the essence.
“A restored Executive will have three economic priorities, implementing the profound changes needed to turn round Invest NI, tackling skills shortages and providing affordable child care.
“Despite the challenges I’m genuinely optimistic about our ability to make progress on these issues.
“This is a moment for hope, a moment for pragmatism, a moment to put our shared economic interests ahead of party politics.
“This is a time to seize that moment.”
Sinn Féin’s leader in the Seanad, Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile, has welcomed the unanimous passing of a motion marking the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and calling for the re-establishment of the institutions in the north.
The motion received unanimous, cross party support in the Seanad yesterday evening.
Speaking today, Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile said:
“I welcome the successful passing of this motion in the Seanad following a unanimous vote across parties. This shows the steadfast support that the Good Friday Agreement continues to hold, as a key guide for peace, inclusivity, partnership and rights.
“The motion called for the immediate restoration of the northern institutions. People in the north deserve effective, local government; that is what a majority of people, parties and businesses want. The DUP’s boycott of the institutions must end. All parties need to get back to the Executive table without delay, to get on with making the decisions that they were elected to deliver on: investing in healthcare, tackling the cost of living crisis and delivering good jobs.
“I want to thank everyone who took part in last night’s debate and commend the inclusive, thoughtful and heartfelt contributions which were shared. Through consensus and a genuine desire to find solutions that benefit everyone in the north, we can secure a better way forward for all communities.
"Last night the Seanad made an important and unanimous call for the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, in this 25th anniversary year, to be restored and for its full promise and commitment to be implemented.”The text of the motion is available to view here