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British Government Brexit Border proposals “absolutely unacceptable” - Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, joined the chorus of outrage this week to the British government’s suggestion of developing customs posts along the border as part of its effort to replace the 'backstop'.  The Monaghan based representative described any such arrangements as “absolutely unacceptable”.

Speaking from Brussels on Tuesday the Monaghan based MEP said:

“This is a ludicrous proposition from the British Government that will be rejected by communities on both sides of the border.  It vindicates those of us who argued that the issues pertaining to the border in Ireland needed to be addressed in the first part of the Brexit negotiations.  While the British governments claimed that they could be trusted to protect the Good Friday Agreement this paper shows that, even at this late stage, they have either no understanding or no care for our peace process or the economy in any part of Ireland, including the north.

“It is incumbent on the EU and the Irish government to make it absolutely clear that any such proposal is absolutely out of the question.  The partition of our country has been a disaster economically, socially and politically.  It led to division and conflict and has stunted the potential of our entire country and especially the border region.  The Good Friday Agreement and our joint membership of the EU single market were the twin ingredients that have allowed us to begin undoing some of the damage of partition over the past twenty-odd years.  We cannot tolerate, from any quarter, the notion that there would be new controls on cross-border interactions.

“That is why it is also disconcerting to see reports that the Irish government may have invested in new customs vehicles for use in the border region”. (Photos circulating on social media this week showed a consignment of new customs vehicles arriving in Dundalk, Co. Louth).

Carthy said “To our community, having customs checks between Monaghan and Armagh is the equivalent of putting the same checks between Kerry and Cork.  This approach would not be tolerated anywhere else and will not be tolerated by border communities.

“The Irish government must use all resources to avoid any hardening of the border in our country.  That they appear to be investing in numerous customs vehicles without consulting with local communities is deeply worrying and will be unsettling to many.

“Now, is the time for all Irish political voices to remain steadfast in support of the backstop and in our determination to avoid any disruption to cross-border activity.

“What we need on this island, north and south, is to ensure there is no hard border, that our all-island economy is protected and that the Good Friday Agreement is protected.

“The British Government's proposals published this week fly in the face of all of that, and it is a vexatious suggestion that mustn’t be given succour by Irish government actions.”

EU role in Irish Unity?

Matt Carthy also reported that he and his colleague Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson, would next week host the launch of an independent legal and academic report detailing how the EU can assist in facilitating Irish Unity.  The document will be launched in the European Parliament on Wednesday next the 9th of October.

 

Carthy said: “This report, authored by Professor Colin Harvey of Queen’s University Belfast and Barrister Mark Bassett is the first of its kind, and will explore how the EU can assist with the transition to Irish Unity, drawing on the assistance that the EU provided during the unification of Germany.  People across the island of Ireland have already begun a series of calm and considered conversations about our futures.  

 

“It is clear, that should the British government proceed with their reckless Brexit agenda without consideration for the special arrangements that are required to protect Ireland, that the debate on Irish Unity will advance swiftly.  The provision for a poll on Irish Unity is a key component within the Good Friday Agreement and it will be seen by many in the north as a pathway back to European Union membership.

 

“So we need to start preparing for it now.  This report will be an important contribution to the debate and I look forward to engaging with colleagues from across Europe to ensure that we make a success of the journey towards a United Ireland that we are undoubtedly on”.

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin, has said that the new Land Development Agency (LDA) is “at risk of becoming another NAMA” and will “hamper the delivery of social and affordable housing”.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“This morning the Housing Committee commenced pre-legislative scrutiny of the legislation underpinning the new Land Development Agency (LDA).

“The LDA and the Department of Housing went through the heads of bill with the committee and it soon became clear that the LDA is at risk of becoming another NAMA that will hamper the delivery of social and affordable homes.

“The LDA will be an independent commercial entity. It will not be subject to Freedom of Information requests and it will not subject to scrutiny by the Department of Housing on the delivery of housing projects.

“When inevitable conflicts of interest arise between the LDA’s commercial remit and Government housing policy, as was the case with NAMA, the commercial interest will triumph with workers and families in need of social and affordable housing left paying the price. 

“In terms of the functions of the agency, astonishingly, the LDA will not have a statutory obligation to deliver social and affordable housing.

“Furthermore, it is the government’s intention that 60% of all houses delivered will be sold at open market prices, undermining the state’s ability to deliver large volumes of social and affordable homes on public lands.

“Sinn Féin strongly supports the creation of Active Land Management Agency. Such an agency would need strong CPO powers, something which is not contained in the current LDA legislation.

“Sinn Féin is of the view that residential development on public land should be done by local authorities. 

“We cannot support a Bill that places commercial interest over the delivery of genuinely affordable homes for working people.”

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Speaking after today’s meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Martin Kenny TD has said that there is need for regulation of internet service providers.

Deputy Kenny was speaking after hearing contributions from the Garda Siochána, the Rape Crisis Network’s legal department, ISPCC and Cybersafe Ireland on the issue of cyberbullying and harassment.

Deputy Kenny said:

“I believe that since self-regulation has failed in every other sector, that there are no signs to the contrary in the field of internet service providers. People are inclined to use the internet to abuse, insult and malign others on the basis that no one will know who they are. This anonymity has to be abolished.

“It just doesn’t wash that the internet companies, on the one hand, seem to know everything about its users, but on the other hand cannot identify those using the internet to spread hatred and incite violence. There is also the use of explicit sexual imagery being shared without consent.

“It is a runaway industry that has no regulation. This must change. The Joint Oireachtas Committee is working on a report and various pieces of legislation will be forthcoming.

“Sinn Féin will work to make the internet safer and to regulate those companies who must take responsibility for the actions of their users.”

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Today in the Dáil the Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald challenged the Taoiseach to outline his plan to tackle chronic overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick.

Figures today showed 82 patients without a bed at the hospital.

Ms McDonald said:

“In the Dáil yesterday the Taoiseach apologised to the over 500 people who were left waiting on a bed in Limerick and at hospitals across the State.

“At this point an apology is not enough.

“The Taoiseach dismissed my proposal for investment in our hospitals and in our health service. He said that the overcrowding ‘is not a matter of beds’. That is patent nonsense. For the 82 people waiting in Limerick today it very much is a matter of beds. And with his statement today the Taoiseach offered those people no hope and no solutions to this ongoing crisis.

“We need to move on from apologies and take action. Today I challenged the Taoiseach to lay out his plan for University Hospital Limerick because the situation is unsustainable. The solutions are there, he just needs to start implementing them.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane today gave a cautious welcome to the Minister for Health’s announcement that we will make an allocation for staff for the South East Palliative Care Centre in Waterford, adding that it has to be the full allocation needed to open the unit.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“Today I questioned the Minister for Health on funding for the South East Palliative Care Centre and he was able to tell me that he will be making an allocation in the budget for staff  costs to open the centre.

“This is to be welcomed, but at the same time we need to be sure that the funds will be enough to open the centre as a matter of urgency.

 “When fully operational the unit will have 20 in-patient bedrooms with individual gardens for clients requiring the expertise of a specialist palliative care multi-disciplinary team, and the budget allocation must be enough to make this happen.

“This is cost €4.8m and the Minister needs to make that allocation in the estimates.

“The Waterford Hospice Movement and the South East CHO need certainty going forward, especially after so many hold-ups.

“I will be meeting the Minister tomorrow along with other public representatives for Waterford and I will press home the issue of funding and that he commits to €4.8m in order to allow the centre to be fully operational.”

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Carthy presses EU Commission Agriculture candidate on CAP inequalities & dominance of processors & retailers

Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has said that the EU nominee for the post of Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski from poland, failed to impress during his hearing with members of the European Parliament on Tuesday.

At the hearing of the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee Carthy pressed Mr. Wojciechowski, who is set to replace Phil Hoan on the college of commissioners, on the deep inequalities that exist within CAP and on the growing dominance of a small number of corporate processors & retailers who have forced the depression of the prices received for their product.

Speaking afterwards the Midlands North West MEP said that he believed that Mr. Wojciechowski’s replies to questions were vague, oft times ill-informed and insufficient to inspire the level of confidence required considering the challenges facing farmers in Ireland, and elsewhere in the EU, over the coming years.

Addressing the commissioner-designate  at the hearing, Carthy said:

“The commissioner designate refers to the fact that the EU is losing farms at a rate of 4 million per decade.  I want to save the commission the expense of carrying out an assessment to identify the cause of this and explain that is simply because farms are not viable.  Farming has become unprofitable for too many and therefore farmers are being forced off the land.

“There are two areas that must be addressed to help tackle this.  The first is a reform of farm payments; currently just 125,000 of the wealthiest farm enterprises in the EU receive €13 billion in CAP payments.  That is about 10% of the overall EU budget(!).  This is a huge amount going to that small number of farm enterprises, while most farmers receive a pittance in comparison.

Farm protests

“Secondly, within the agricultural sector, we have seen ongoing consolidation of large corporate processors and retailers, and the European Commission has stood by while it has happened.  This consolidation has weakened the position of farmers and in turn depressed the prices that they receive.  As a result, this has led to unprecedented protests in Ireland by beef farmer.

“So the question for the commission nominee to answer is what he intends to do to ensure the redistribution of farm payments towards ordinary farmers and to tackle the small number of powerful corporate interests in the agricultural sector?”

In his response Mr Wojciechowski stated that the EU cannot decide the prices and the market must be free.  He proceeded to relay broad statistics and said that he wanted a debate.

Clearly unimpressed MEP Carthy chastised “I don’t know what that was but it wasn’t an answer to my questions”.  He suggested that another hearing with the commissioner will be necessary before the nomination of Mr. Wojciechowski can be ratified.

Matt Carthy proceeded, in his follow-up contribution to ask the commissioner-designate if he would give his view on two specific proposals.

Ban Below-Cost Selling

“Firstly will the commission nominee support a hard, mandatory, upper limit on high payments so that the balance can be redistributed to ordinary farmers?  And, secondly, I believe firmly that if we are to tackle the dominance of a small number of processors and retailers we need to introduce a ban on below cost selling by retailers on agricultural products.  Will the commissioner endorse that proposal?”

Again, Mr Wojciechowski responded in vague terms and Matt Carthy stated bluntly afterwards:  “If a nominee for the position of Agriculture Commissioner does not a view on these matters then they should not be looking for the job.  The previous Commissioner, Phil Hogan, had a position, unfortunately it was the wrong one on both counts.  If we continue along that track then we will continue to see the numbers of farmers decline.

“This could be the last chance to save family farming as a viable model.  In order to do so we need to have a fairer CAP and we need to rein in the large factories and retailers.  In the first instance, we need a commissioner who will work towards these ends” he concluded.

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Sinn Féin Councillor John Finucane has urged people to reject the Tories and DUP and their disastrous Brexit policies which will bring economic catastrophe to the north. 

John Finucane said: 

"Tonight at the DUP fringe event at the Tory party conference the British Prime Minister showed once again his total contempt and disdain for the people of the north of Ireland.

“The British Tory prime minister continues to put local jobs, business and agriculture at risk, cause food and medicine shortages and the prospect of a hard border looms ever closer, while the DUP act as cheerleaders for his disastrous Brexit agenda.

"The upcoming Westminster election is an opportunity to reject the Tories, to reject the DUP and their deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, one of the key architects of Brexit, and to reject the failed policies of the British government in Ireland."

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O'Neill has said the upcoming Westminster election offers the people of Mid Ulster a chance to reject Westminster, reject Toryism and reject the DUP and put the interests of the people of Ireland first. 

Speaking as Francie Molloy was selected at an election convention in Gulladuff to contest any upcoming Westminster election for Sinn Féin in Mid Ulster, Michelle O'Neill said: 

"The upcoming Westminster election, when it is called, is a chance for the people of the north to again reject Brexit. 

“The nationalist and and republican electorate have already rejected Westminster, realising it will never act in the their interests or provide solutions to Brexit, and this election is an opportunity to reinforce that message. 

"It is also a chance to reject the DUP and the chaos and paralysis they have brought to politics both in the north and in Britain. 

"Francie Molloy has been a first-class MP for Mid Ulster; tirelessly representing the community and working on their behalf day and daily. 

"A vote for Francie Molloy is a vote to put the interests of Ireland first.” 

Francie Molloy said: 

"I am delighted and honoured to once again be selected to go forward to contest the upcoming Westminster election for Sinn Féin in Mid Ulster. 

"This is an area where our economy is largely dependent on manufacturing, agriculture and the agri-food sector; all of which will be severely damaged by any kind of Brexit. 

"We also have many people from across the EU who have chosen to come here to work and make their home and they are being threatened by the Tory Brexit agenda. 

"An upcoming election will give the people here a chance to again reject Brexit, reject the Tories and reject their Brexit-supporting cheerleaders in the DUP."

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said Sinn Féin will meet Dalriadan to outline opposition to plans for gold mining in the Sperrins and also to condemn threats against workers. 

Caoimhe Archibald said: 

"The issue of potential gold mining and exploitation of our natural resources is a cause of great concern for many in our society. 

"However, I totally condemn threats against workers.

"All workers should be able to go to their work and be free to go about their business without fear of intimidation or harassment. 

"Communities have the right to oppose any proposals for mining but threats to workers are unacceptable. 

"We will be meeting with Dalriadan to outline our opposition and the opposition of the local community to gold mining in the Sperrins. 

"Sinn Féin remains opposed to the use of cyanide in mining and reiterate that the application should be subject to a full independent public inquiry."

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South Antrim MLA and Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney was tonight selected at a party selection convention in Crumlin, Co. Antrim to stand as the Sinn Féin candidate in South Antrim in the next Westminster general election.

Addressing the large gathering of party members and supporters, Declan Kearney said: 

“Irish Unity has become the defining issue for our generation. 

“The debate on future constitutional change is now centre stage.

“The partition of Ireland by Britain nearly 100 years ago was fundamentally undemocratic. There is nothing to celebrate about the centenary of the northern state.

“Partition created an Orange state whose laws were the envy of the apartheid state in South Africa.

“Partition has now run out of road.

“The British state has never cared about the welfare of citizens in this part of Ireland. That reality has been magnified with the onset of Brexit. Events in Westminster over recent weeks have underlined the absolute contempt of the British parliament towards Irish interests. 

“The DUP has shown repeatedly that it has as little concern for the rights or welfare of our people as the Tories.

“The DUP undermined the latest round of talks between April and August of this year.

“And now it is undermining the Irish back-stop as the only way to provide minimum protections against the imposition of Brexit."

Concluding, the South Antrim MLA said: 

“This next general election will be a watershed opportunity for all progressives in the north to speak out on the future that they want.

“It will be an opportunity to reject Brexit and send a resounding message in support of Irish unity and a new constitutional framework which respects the identities and traditions of all people living in Ireland.”

The full text of Declan Kearney’s remarks are below.

“A watershed has opened up in the politics of Ireland, and political relations between Ireland, Britain and Europe.

Irish unity has become the defining issue for our generation.

The debate on future constitutional change, and transition to the reunification of Ireland is now centre stage.

The partition of Ireland by Britain nearly 100 years ago was fundamentally anti-democratic.

There is nothing to celebrate about the centenary of the northern state.

Partition created an orange state whose laws were the envy of the apartheid state in South Africa.

Partition has now run out of road.

The Brexit referendum over 3 years ago detonated a constitutional earthquake at the heart of the British state which has continued to deepen and reverberate ever since.

British state interference in Irish affairs has always been illegitimate. It has denied democracy and equality; and it has fostered sectarianism and division among our people.

The British state has never cared about the welfare of citizens in this part of Ireland.

It does not even care about those citizens who give allegiance to the union and the British state.

And that reality has been magnified with the onset of Brexit. Events in Westminster in recent weeks have underlined the absolute contempt of the British parliament towards citizens in the north of Ireland and towards Irish interests.

The only certainty is that there is no longer any certainty.

The toxic alliance between the tory government and DUP Brexiteers are the cause of that.

And the DUP has shown repeatedly that it has as little concern for the rights or welfare of our people as the Tories.

The facts are that the DUP undermined the agreement in February of 2018 which could have restored power sharing in the north.

The DUP undermined the latest round of talks between April and August of this year.

And now it is undermining the Irish backstop as the only way to provide minimum protections against the imposition of Brexit.

The fundamental questions which now arise are whether the northern state can embrace equality and accommodate Irish citizens and others living here as equals.

The only way to persuade northern nationalists, republicans and other progressives is through commitment to a rights based return to power-sharing.

The political challenge facing the DUP is to fully embrace proper power sharing and partnership institutions.

During the recent negotiations there was no serious evidence that the DUP wants to make a future northern executive and assembly work in the interest of all citizens.

This next general election will be a watershed opportunity for all progressives in the north to speak out on the future that they want.

It will be an opportunity to reject Brexit and send a resounding message in support of Irish unity and a new constitutional framework which respects the identities and traditions of all people living in Ireland.”

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Sinn Féin Dublin Bay South Councillor Chris Andrews has called for a Gaelcholáiste to be developed in Harold's Cross on the old Greyhound Track as part of the campaign #Gaelcholáiste4All.

Sinn Féin is committed to the expansion and enrichment of Irish Medium Education across the island and this campaign is welcomed as it coincides with the #Gaeilge4All Campaign that was launched ón Monday.

Councillor Andrews said,

“As a parent who's two daughters went through Gaeloideachas, I would like to see other families have that opportunity.

“The importance and benefits of Irish Medium Education are widely known and accepted.

“In a fast-changing world, holding onto our language and culture is important. Bilingualism also provides great platform to learn other languages.

“The new school in Harold's Cross should be a Gaelscoil and would be a great addition to a flourishing Irish Language community with 3 Bunscoils already in the catchment area.213

“Tacaíonn Sinn Féin leis an bhfeachtas seo agus iarrann muid ar thuistí cuidiú lena gcuid páistí vóta a chaitheamh ar son na Gaeilge agus an Córas Pátrúnachta.

“We are encouraging parents to vote for Irish and the Córas Patrúnachta at this link: http://gaelscoil4all.ie/dublin-6-d6w/?fbclid=IwAR1rMOsPIAzvWU3nxuBaqJ725z-O-hsisU36BuoCemQKyu1AEHbsDgKDIFU ”

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Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard will host a Climate Action Conference in Castle Ward on Friday to give people a unique opportunity to engage with policy advisors, leading environmental academics and campaigners.

The South Down MP secured EU funding to host 'Beyond Politics: Climate Action Now’ in Castle Ward this Friday alongside Martina Anderson MEP.

Chris Hazzard MP said:

“Beyond Politics: Climate Action Now is a one day conference workshop opened to the public, free to attend, and will hopefully be the start of an interactive conversation between the local South Down community and leading academics and campaigners as to what we can do to help play our part in building a better world.

“As a coastal constituency with many environmentally sensitive areas, South Down has a rich and vibrant community who care very deeply about the world around us. Indeed there are many local campaigns and activists who are playing a leading role in making the case for an alternative way of doing things in order to help save our local community, our beautiful island, and ultimately our planet.

“Friday’s conference workshop will provide a great opportunity to hear first-hand from climate activists who have taken governments and big business to court; stood against the destructive fossil fuel industry; led mass demonstrations against large-scale polluters and academics who are enlightening the minds of a new generation of environmental campaigners.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the year on year rise in Louth of the number of people who are suffering from homelessness as “deeply worrying and depressing” and “evidence of the government’s inability to get to grips with this significant policy failure”.

The Louth TD was speaking following the publication of the Dept of Housing ‘Homelessness Report August 2019 which revealed a dramatic increase in the number of children and families living in homelessness across the state.

Gerry Adams said:

“In our Alternative Budget, published today, Tuesday 1st, Sinn Féin commits to delivering 17,216 social and affordable homes in 2020 – almost nine thousand more than the government.

"We would also implement an emergency freeze on rents for three years and provide renters with a tax break equal to one month’s rent during this period. These are real commitments that would begin the process of fixing our broken housing system.

"According to August’s official homeless figures there are 10,338 people living in emergency accommodation across the state, of which 3,693 are children. 

"This is a shameful statistic which fails to give any real sense of the emotional and stressful circumstances for these adults and children.

“In Louth the number of homeless adults is 170. This compares to 125 homeless adults last August. The number of children in homeless accommodation has dropped from 62 in 2018 to 40 this year but clearly the overall situation has worsened.

"The statistical data, and the reports from families of conditions in homelessness accommodation, is evidence that the Government’s housing strategy, supported by Fianna Fáil, is not working.

“For the seventh month in a row the number of people officially classified as homeless across this state has remained above 10,000.

“These figures do not provide the full picture and do not include women and children in domestic violence shelters funded by Tulsa, adults and children in hostels not funded by Government departments, rough sleepers and those still living in Direct Provision despite having secured their leave to remain.

"Clearly the government’s housing strategy – Rebuilding Ireland – is not working."

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Taoiseach to “stop using Brexit as an excuse” to tackling the trolley crisis.

610 people are waiting on hospital trolleys across the state today according to INMO figures.

Ms McDonald said:

“We need solutions, not excuses, to tackle the trolley crisis. The Taoiseach should stop hiding behind Brexit and take action.

“Sinn Féin’s alternative budget published today would take immediate steps to solve this ongoing problem including recruiting 500 extra nurses and midwives and opening an additional 500 beds.

“The thousands of people abandoned on hospital trolleys month after month is a direct result of the policy choices of Fine Gael backed up by Fianna Fáil.

“We cannot tolerate a health service dragged into a perpetual state of crisis by bad policies and inaction. The solutions are there. It’s time to start implementing them.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Kathleen Funchion TD has said her party’s Alternative Budget proposals called for "a complete restructuring of the Childcare & Early Years system".

Sinn Féin has today published proposals that would put children’s interests front and centre by prioritising quality, and by improving the working conditions for staff, while at the same time cutting childcare costs for parents. 

Speaking following the Alternative Budget 2020 launch today in Dublin, the Carlow/Kilkenny TD said:

“A radical new approach is needed for our Childcare & Early Years sector. The current system is broken and completely unsustainable for staff and is financially crippling for so many parents. 

“Sinn Féin would commence a five-year transformational programme of Childcare & Early Years reform that ensures Childcare & Early years staff are properly paid, and that fees are slashed for parents - €28m in the first year (full year €85m).

“Our Alternative Budget published today outlines our proposals which aim to reduce fees across the state for parents significantly over a five-year period.

“We would start with a reduction of 13% in the first full year, increasing to a 66% reduction by end of year five. 

“This would amount to a cut on average of €100 per month on a monthly crèche fee of €800 initially. 

“We would achieve this through direct financial support for all centre-based providers that choose to opt in to a new childcare system.

“We would introduce a proper pay scale for all workers in the sector, regardless of level, starting with the current Living Wage of €12.30 upon entry level. 

“This would increase year upon year over a five-year period.

“If we expect high quality education and care, as well as a high standard in the delivery of those services to our children, then we need to address the unfair working conditions of staff. 

“It’s common sense – if we expect staff to work above and beyond their duty for minimum or below minimum wage, the end result will not always be in the best interests of the child. 

“Sinn Féin believes another way is possible to end the spiralling costs while at the same time create an Early Years sector that values and pays staff accordingly while delivering high quality education and care for all children.” 

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Speaking on the controversy on a proposed development at Glassmullin Gardens in Andersonstown local Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey said:

“I am disappointed that the community and La Salle school are in conflict about the proposed development by the school of a green field site at Glassmullin Gardens, which has resulted in a stand-off between residents and contractors.

“I have engaged with the local community and a residents’ group and with the school.

“I have urged them to engage in dialogue, facilitated by independents who have a track record in community projects, to find a way forward.

"Even at this late hour I believe it is possible to find a solution to meet the needs of the local community and the school. 

“I have contacted the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education to ask for a short-term moratorium on the project to enable such a dialogue to take place.” 

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Food spokesperson Brian Stanley TD has described the British Governments ‘custom posts’ proposal on the border as a policy which would bring the entire Irish agricultural sector North and South to a standstill.

The Laois-Offaly TD has called for the Irish Government to reject the proposal and to ensure that there are no internal border checks for the Agri-food sector on the island of Ireland.

Speaking this afternoon, Deputy Stanley said:

“The proposal put forward by the British Government to the EU for custom posts along the border is fantasy stuff.

“It is completely unworkable with regards to agriculture and food and it must be flatly rejected.

“We have companies which operate in both the North and the South and any attempt to erect a hard border on the island will be unacceptable.

“Such conditions would bring the agri-food sector to a halt.

“The British Government needs to understand that we already have a border which runs along the Irish coast.

“Sinn Féin and the people who we represent in the Agri-food sector will not accept the creation of what is essentially a second hard border on the island which would place unnecessary and arduous conditions upon the Irish agricultural and food sector.

“What we need is for the Irish Government to continue to put pressure on the EU and on Britain to ensure that there are no border checks on the island of Ireland regarding food and animals.”

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has called for the reintroduction of the schools programme for voter registration and said more must be done to advertise online registration.

Speaking after leading a party delegation, including Francie Molloy MP, Paul Maskey MP and Colm Gildernew MLA, to meet with the Electoral Office, the Mid Ulster MLA said:

“The current deficit on the electoral register is unacceptable. Large numbers of people are being robbed of their vote through incorrect registration at a time when major decisions are facing citizens in the coming weeks. 

“Young people will bear the brunt of the reckless Tory-DUP Brexit, climate change and austerity. It’s vital that they have an opportunity to change the world around them. 

“However, it’s extremely worrying that only 51% of people aged 18-34 are correctly registered and this comes on the heels of the scrapping of school registration programmes. 

“We have told the Electoral Office it should urgently restart the schools programme which has the potential to get over 10,000 young people a year onto the register. 

“We have urged them to provide more registration clinics in communities, particularly in rural settings and areas with low numbers of people on the electoral register and have called on them to advertise online registration more widely. 

“The Electoral Office has a responsibility to address the democratic deficit and to ensure as many people as possible can access their fundamental right to vote.”     

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Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has called for greater protections for whistle-blowers whilst speaking at a debate in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
 
Welcoming the proposal for an EU Directive, and demanding urgent attention of European Governments to get this done, Senator Gavan said:
 
“Whistle-blowers play an essential role in any open and transparent democracy.
 
“They need to be given recognition and protection in law. This is a matter of fundamental rights.
 
“We need responsible citizens to disclose serious failings in the public interest if they come across them within government or in the private sector.”
 
Senator Gavan cited the cases of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and the murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia to demonstrate the lack of protections at present.
 
The Limerick-based Senator continued:
 
“Whistle-blowers need protection so they can help hold governments to account without fear of repercussion.
 
“The proposal for an EU Directive is another major step forward, but there’s much more to be done.
 
“Above all, look at the callous murder of Daphne Caruana Galicia in Malta. Yesterday, we heard how her memorial is being routinely destroyed by the Government of Malta.
 
“May her name continue to ring out throughout this chamber until justice is done!”

“One of the major issues affecting our societies is the use of tax havens by extremely wealthy individuals and companies.
 
“They are using tax loopholes to hide vast amounts of money they should be paying tax on in foreign tax havens. Unfortunately, my country, Ireland, is part of this global tax haven structure.
 
“We got an insight into this gross tax evasion due to the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers journalistic investigation.
 
“This could only happen because a whistle blower or whistle blowers leaked data and information that was clearly in the public interest.

“We need more whistle-blowing to reveal how corrupt and damaging such tax evasion is for our economies and societies, and to expose misuse of private data.
 
“The term whistle-blower must be broadly defined so as to cover any individual or legal entity that reveals or reports, in good faith, a crime or lesser offence, a breach of the law or a threat or harm to the public interest that they became aware of either directly or indirectly.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for climate action and member of the PAC David Cullinane has said that the Comptroller and Auditor General's annual report reveals a government that is hell-bent on monoculture afforestation, despite the concerns of farmers, environmental groups, and even the EU.  

It shows that Fine Gael is incapable of the long-term thinking that climate action demands.

Deputy Cullinane said:

"The government's afforestation program is fixated with the planting of Sitka Spruce, an approach that is having a detrimental effect in terms of biodiversity. 

"It is also one that that unduly affected Leitrim, where the rate of afforestation was just over 24 times the level in Donegal between the years 2015 and 2018 - the vast majority of which was monoculture Sitka Spruce.

"The use of this tree has been  criticised by farmers, environmental groups, and the EU, yet still Fine Gael continues with the policy. 

"It has missed afforestation targets, neglected native species, and underspent on road infrastructure.

"It is clear what is needed - a proper state wide investment that provides opportunities for farmers in planting native forests rich in biodiversity and broadleaf plantations.

"All of this must be done with the fullest engagement with local communities. 

"The days of corporate monoculture afforestation must come to an end."

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