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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Dublin Denise Mitchell has called on the Government to establish a Child Maintenance Service, saying that “the current child maintenance system is not working for lone parents or for children”.

Speaking during a debate that Sinn Féin had brought forward last night, the Dublin Bay North TD said:

“Lone parents make up a substantial demographic in society. There are almost 220,000 lone parent families in the State. Child maintenance contributions are a vital financial support that is necessary to provide children with the best developmental opportunities. The current child maintenance system is not working for lone parents or for children in need of critical financial support. It is responsible for lone parent families being five times more at risk of experiencing poverty than a two-parent household.

“The absence of a State body or agency to provide assistance to these families and ensure that child maintenance is being paid is hurting vulnerable children and lone parents. Lone parents have effectively been abandoned by the State. Forcing them into court to have maintenance paid is increasing stress and causes conflict between custodial and non-custodial parents. Even after court cases are heard, maintenance is still not being paid in too many cases. This damages all parties, especially the children involved, and proves that the current system is not working.

“We need a child maintenance service. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection recognises the importance of child maintenance payments, which can determine whether welfare supports are paid or not and at what level. Some 220,000 families need a child maintenance service that will support them. This is one of few western states that do not have this service in place. The United Nations has called on Ireland to establish such a service.

“Guidelines from a Minister are not good enough. This is a sensible, workable solution and those who need it, vulnerable lone parents and their children, as well as advocacy groups, are demanding that we introduce it."

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“Barnier confirms that EU will not accept Unionist veto” - Matt Carthy MEP

Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has welcomed confirmation from European Commission Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, that the EU will not accept any further dilution to the agreement reached with the British government last week.

Mr. Barnier was responding to direct questions from Matt Carthy and his colleague Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson, during a dialogue with the Left political grouping in the European Parliament on Tuesday evening.

In response to issues raised by the Sinn Féin representatives Michel Barnier was unequivical, stating “There will be no veto - we will stay tough on that”.

This was just a short period before the House of Commons voted in favour of the withdrawal agreement but against the time-frame laid proposed by Boris Johnson.  It appears that the EU is now set to grant an extension of a further three months to the Brexit process.

Midlands North West MEP, Matt Carthy, said that this is the right move from an Irish point of view, saying “Prolonged uncertainty is always better than certain disaster.  And a no deal scenario would be certain disaster for Ireland and particularly the border region.

Speaking earlier on Tuesday in a European Parliament plenary debate in Strasbourg Matt Carthy told fellow MEPs that the border in Ireland is already too hard.

He said:

“The border has frustrated economic, social and political development in our country and it resulted in a conflict for which too many paid too high a price.

“The Good Friday Agreement and our shared membership of the EU have, together, been the instruments that have allowed us to undo some of the damages of partition over the past two decades.

“That is why Brexit has been such a dangerous development.  It has risked our peace process and our all-Ireland economy.

“Even the deal negotiated last week will create new problems relating to the border in Ireland.  We support it because it is better than the alternative.

“This deal cannot be further diluted.  There can be no veto, no opportunity for any one party to hold every business, every farm, every worker, every community across the island of Ireland to ransom.  To suggest that such a veto would represent ‘consent’ is absurd and is a ludicrous misreading of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Of course, the best way to protect our country from the dangers of Brexit is through Irish Unity.  The EU can play a role in supporting the peaceful, democratic pathway to that objective.  

“I hope this house is ready and willing to be part of the big constitutional conversation coming our way” he concluded.

ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD has strongly criticised the Governments’ decision to abstain on his party’s motion calling for the establishment of a statutory Child Maintenance Service, based on international best practice.

Speaking following the debate, Teachta Brady said:

“It is deeply disappointing that the Government have chosen to abstain on this Motion which had the full backing of both lead lone parent organisations One Family and SPARK.

“This motion was brought forward with sensible and well-thought out proposals on how best we can support sand assist lone parent families in seeking maintenance payments.

“Minister Finian McGrath, who stood in for Minister Doherty in her absence read a speech that has angered many lone parents, seemed more concerned with the lack of recognition for 'the substantial work already done to support lone parents' than the actual issue of maintenance. 

"Given that it is the Governments’ own policy decisions that have condemned so many lone parent families to poverty, Minister McGrath had some neck to make such a statement.

“The Government abstained because they believe that they are already doing the necessary work when it comes to tackling issues around child maintenance. Yet, up until September of this year, not once did Minister Doherty agree to examine the current process in place in order to seek maintenance.

“Minister Doherty has done nothing to date, to tackle issues faced by lone parents when it comes to maintenance. That is a fact.

“In relation to the funding announced as part of Budget 2020 for research into child maintenance, it appears to me that the purpose of this is to establish guidelines and not, a statutory service which is what is actually needed.

“Despite the Government abstaining on this motion, we had the necessary support to see the motion passed. We will now hold Minister Doherty to account on ensuring that the research she undertakes as part of the Budget 2020 commitment will include consultation with stakeholders and the establishment of a Child Maintenance Service. Anything less will be an insult to lone parent families.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has responded to news that 320 jobs are to be lost at Novartis in Ringaskiddy, Cork, saying that it is devastating and shocking news for workers and their families.

Speaking from Cork today, Deputy Ó Laoghaire has called on the government and the Department of Social Protection to take all steps possible to save as many jobs as possible, and to ensure Novartis workers have all possible assistance available to them

"Novartis are a major employer in Ringaskiddy, for over two decades, employing 500 people from right across Cork.

"This is devastating news for workers at Novartis, who have played a crucial role in building Novartis in to what it is today; an enormously profitable company, and is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

"I have spoken with workers this morning and they are deeply worried for the future.

"The government need to be proactive here. I note that the Minister for Enterprise is in Shannon today, following job losses there. I hope she will do the same for Cork, and examine whether there are ways to save as many jobs as possible here.

"I hope that workers representatives can obtain the best possible conditions for workers where this is not possible.

"Government Departments need to stand ready, prepared to engage with the workers on the ground and support them. That includes the Department of Social Protection and Department of Entreprise.

"The Minister also needs to immediately begin the process of seeking funding from the European Globalisation Fund to assist workers who are made redundant in seeking new employment. This funding is there for situations like this, it needs to be used.

"This is shocking news, devastating news that will have a massive impact on people, and their lives, future plans potentially scuppered. 

"Novartis internationally, are a company that is thriving. New drugs that have been launched recently by them are performing better than expected. 

"I hope that Cork workers and their families are not paying the price for the desire of multinational companies to simply increase their profit margins, that would be reprehensible."

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Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has welcomed progress on pensions for victims of the conflict but said that this must be brought forward as part of the package of legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House.

The party’s victims and legacy spokesperson said:

“I welcome progress on the pensions issue.

“Many people seriously injured in the conflict have been waiting decades for appropriate support and they have campaigned vigorously on this issue.

“However, I’m concerned that the pension does not cover all those injured as a result of the conflict.

“The Westminster legislation has moved away from the legal definition of a victim.

“It remains Sinn Féin’s view that all victims should be able to access the pension on the basis of need.

“The pension for victims of the conflict was one of a range of commitments made in the Stormont House Agreement.

“The British government continues to stall on the implementation of the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House.

“The families of victims have waited too long for truth and disclosure about the killings of their loved ones. 

“That is unacceptable.

“The cover up and foot dragging by the British government of the role of their military and intelligence services in the conflict must end.”

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Sinn Féin Justice and Equality spokesman Martin Kenny TD has condemned an armed attack on tourists near the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin yesterday.

Deputy Kenny said:

“We are hearing from the Garda Commissioner that his reorganisation of the Garda Siochána will increase visible garda presence on the streets of our towns and cities.

“Hovever, everyday I am hearing stories of a loss of confidence in the Gardaí, for the reason that they are not visible and not present when they are most needed - when citizens are under threat in public areas or in their homes.

“Armed thieves robbing tourists beside one of Ireland’s most-visited attractions demands urgent action, but so too does the protection of everyone on our streets, in the capital and all over the state.

“I call on the Minister for Justice to ensure that the necessary resources are available to the Commissioner to provide the protection that An Garda Siochána, the guardians of the peace, exists to provide.

“If it is the case that the resources are available but are not being used to provide the most basic policing of functions, then the Minister must act to speed up the reforms which promise to deal with this crisis in policing.

"People going about their lives in this state deserve to do so without fear of robbery and violence.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD’s bill that provides for the establishment of a latent defects redress scheme to assist homeowners has passed first stage in the Dáil this afternoon.

This Bill creates a redress scheme which provides a resolution to homeowners who bought their homes in good faith and who should not be held liable for the costs of remediation caused by the incompetence and/or negligence developers.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“The Latent Defects Redress Bill 2019 that I have introduced today establishes a latent defects redress scheme to assist homeowners in remedying issues, such as fire safety and other structural defects that have been uncovered in their homes.

“This scheme will lay out a number of solutions, which will include an information and advice service for homeowners. A mediation service will be offered to disputing parties to see if a resolution can be found between the developer/builder and the homeowner. If mediation is not an option, the scheme will issue legally binding adjudications on cases.

“Where builder/developers are still trading, the original developer should pay for the remediation works. However, in cases where the developer is no longer trading, the scheme will administer a compensation fund for homeowners that will be paid for by a levy on the construction industry and will be matched on a euro-for-euro basis by the Exchequer.

“Under the scheme, a programme of risk assessments for latent defects including fire safety and water ingress and related structural defects will commence. The scheme will also conduct a review of the existing sanctions for developers/builders who breach building and fire safety standards.

“In the first instance, the original builder/developer should be held liable for defects for which they are responsible. However, the government also has a responsibility as the poor building regulations in place during the boom did not tackle the bad building that was happening.

“I hope this piece of legislation will have cross party support.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Cavan-Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has today voiced his long standing vexation with the failure of previous Governments to heed Cervical Cancer warnings.

Teachta Ó Caoláin and other opposition spokespeople for Health had highlighted the risks of moving the laboratory processing of cervical screen tests to the United States and elsewhere over a decade ago.

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated;

“I want to welcome today’s apology by An Taoiseach on behalf of the State to the ‘cervical check’ women and families who have suffered so grievously.

“I hope that it brings some measure of comfort and recognition to the thousands of women and their families who suffered because of a State that was unlistening and unresponsive.

“I would ask the Minister for Health if he is confident that when members of the Dáil and citizens raise their voices in genuine concern, that they are being listened to and heeded. He may say he is, but I am definitely not.

“While the full impact of this outsourcing debacle came into sharp media focus with the passing of Emma Mhic Mhathúna and other women, this controversy goes back more than a decade.

“The very same State that is apologising in the Dáil today was either well aware or was made aware of the risks involved in its move to privatisation under the then Minister for Health Mary Harney.

“I raised those serious concerns with Minister Harney in the Dáil chamber back in 2008.  

“Addressing her directly I told her that she would rather ‘listen to corporate executives in the private health business’ and that her HSE had awarded the contract for cervical cancer tests to “Quest Diagnostics, a US company that has an unacceptably high rate of errors.’

“She wouldn’t listen. Innocent citizens have paid a terrible price as a consequence.

“Others such as Dr. Gibbons and the Well Woman Centre also expressed concern at the practices of these laboratories.

“Has that same culture of subservience to the market forces that drive the private health sector really changed?

“While apologies can serve to recognise the pain and suffering of the affected individuals and their families, sincere contrition should include evidence of a commitment to change.

“This change should be obvious and visible to those impacted by the scandal. Such evidence would, I believe, provide meaningful solace to all those caught up in this dreadful and disgraceful scandal.

“Sadly, there is no obvious change, only the continuing mistakes and arrogant ignoring of passionate, informed voices crying out for health justice for all.

“This is not a happy day. It is just another day in a long saga of sad days that appear to have no end”.

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald today raised the recent controversy surrounding the falsification of votes, or 'vote gate' as it has become known.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions, Teachta McDonald said:

“This controversy has struck at the very integrity of the Dáil. Questions remain unanswered and the seriousness of this revelation cannot be overstated.

“I welcome the announcement by the Ceann Comhairle that an investigation is to take place into the events of Thursday last involving Fianna Fáil TDs Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins.

"However it must also be established whether this is an isolated event or if it is part of a pattern of behaviour by that party.

“TDs are elected to take decisions, to legislate.

"These decisions impact people’s lives and this controversy brings to mind recent votes in respect of respite care, home help, crisis rents – real issues affecting real people that should not be brushed aside by TDs who feel they have better things to do with their time.

“There cannot be one set of standards for ordinary working people and another for Fianna Fáil TDs. Outside of the Leinster House bubble, the real world looks on gobsmacked at this behaviour – people deserve answers.

“Beyond any investigation we must also deal with the consequences of this behaviour and establish definitively how widespread this behaviour has been.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald has welcomed An Taoiseach’s apology on behalf of the State to the women and families affected by the Cervical Check scandal.

The Sinn Féin President said:

“The State’s apology is welcome, but those words must mark real and tangible change. This means that in addition to this apology there needs to be reform of the screening programme.

"Such reform should include the repatriation of the testing process to Ireland with sufficient levels of funding to ensure absolute confidence in the screening process.

“I wish to pay tribute to Vicky Phelan who didn’t stay silent, who spoke up with dignity and bravery. She is owed an immense debt of gratitude.

“Our responsibility now is to honour the memory of the women like Emma Mhic Mhathúna, Irene Teap and others by fixing the system. That is the very best thing we can do for all the women affected by the Cervical Check Scandal.”

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Note to editors: Full text of Mary Lou McDonald’s speech below.
 
Mary Lou McDonald TD
Statements on Cervical Check apology
22.10.2019
 
Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the presence of the families and campaigners in the gallery to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude.
 
Taoiseach,
 
Your apology is welcome.
 
It is important that the apology not only relates to the initial failures but also to how women were treated in the wake of the scandal.
 
Women and their families were dragged through the courts to access their vital medical information.

Women had to fight to access information regarding assistance payments. The initial investigations were slow and struggled to gain the confidence of the women affected. Unfortunately, delay and obstruction were the overriding themes of government’s response.
 
Mistakes were made again and again, as more women received incorrect results. Labs were added to the Cervical Check Programme without the proper checks being conducted. The lessons of the crisis have gone unlearned.
 
Beyond an apology, the government must fix the system. Dr Gabriel Scally called this apology momentous stating that:
 
“The three things that really matter to people when things really go wrong badly in the medical system are for someone to tell them the truth, what went wrong, why it went wrong; secondly to say sorry and to really mean that, and from someone with some skin in the game; and the third is to say how it is going to be avoided in the future.”
 
This means that in addition to this apology there needs to be reform of the screening programme. We must see the recommendations of the Scally and McCraith Reports implemented. We can give apologies here with words, but words are hollow without the actions to back them up.
 
We can say that lessons have been learned from this, that we will never let this happen again, but without putting in place the recommendations Scally and McCraith Reports then this could very well happen again.
 
A real and tangible apology will be words, but it will also be actions. Let us say that because of what happened and in the memory of those who are no longer here, that real change has been made, that our services are better, that honestly this will never happen again.
 
Central to ensuring this is the repatriation of the smear testing process to Ireland. This was recommendation number seven of the McCraith Report. It is imperative that a plan along with funding is put in place to do that.
 
It is clear that outsourcing played a part in this scandal. And it played a part in the further mistakes that were made as regards delays of tests and the issuing of results. We know that this cannot be achieved over night, but it must be worked towards.
 
We must fix the system. We must ensure that that women can enjoy absolute confidence in the screening process. And fixing anything in the health service means funding – your words need to be followed with actions and those actions need to be backed up by funding.
 
It was disappointing that in this years’ budget that there was not a specific funding allocation allotted to the CervicalCheck programme.
 
That needs to change – the programme needs additional funding to ensure that it can change and to implement the recommendations of both the McCraith and Scally reports.
 
I would hope that in the coming weeks that funding can be put forward for the CervicalCheck programme.
 
We also need to see the implementation of the Patient Safety Bill.
 
This is the Bill to provide for mandatory open disclosure of serious reportable patient safety incidents and notification of reportable incidents as well as other changes.
 
This General Scheme of the Bill was published in July 2018 and we are still awaiting pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill and holding out for its implementation.
 
We attempted to bring forwarding our own legislation for mandatory open disclosure, the Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill 2018, but this was voted down in the Seanad on the promise that the Patient Safety Bill would be forthcoming sooner rather than later.
 
We accepted that at the time, but there has been no movement on open disclosure. 
 
If the legislation is not progressed before an election, then it will be a great failure that this government could not get mandatory open disclosure over the line during its tenure in government. In the summer of 2018, Emma Mhic Mhathúna spoke outside the gates of the Dáil.
 
She stood with her young children at her side. Children who were facing the unbearable reality that they would lose their beautiful mother so early in life.
 
With the mic in her hand, Emma was a force a nature – sharp, witty, funny and utterly unbroken. One line from her speech sticks in my mind to this day.
 
Emma said; “I am not going to die and leave this country in unsafe hands.”
 
I stood in awe of this mother who was fighting for her life and yet still had the courage and determination to speak up for others. She was grace itself. A wonderful person whose tomorrows were stolen from her.
 
A beloved mother, daughter, sister and friend whose life story was cut short. I also want to acknowledge that there were other Emmas. Other women whose names might never be in a newspaper.

But their families too now live with the sorrowful intake that arrives at sight of the empty chair. Beyond the headlines and the heat of the political crisis, Stephen Teap gave an insight into life without his wife Irene.
 
It is the simplicity that reveals the utter heartbreak. Stephen said; “For instance, I look at Noah and I ask myself do I start him in school in September or do I wait until next year? Who do I bounce that thought off?

“You end up discussing it with relatives and friends and it’s like all decisions then are just you and you alone.”

I think every parent both inside and outside this house could relate to the loneliness meandering through those words. That is the scale of the devastation. That is the depth of the loss. That is the Cervical Check scandal.
 
We should never lose sight of the human cost of the failures. We should never underestimate it. We also should never forget that if it wasn’t for Vicky Phelan perhaps her agony that became very public would have been borne privately.
 
But Vicky Phelan didn’t stay silent. She spoke up. What dignity. What bravery. She is owed an immense debt of gratitude. As I said, the state’s apology is welcome. But those words must mark real and tangible change.

Our responsibility now is to honour the memory of women like Emma and Irene by fixing the system. That is the very best thing we can do for all the women affected by the Cervical Check Scandal.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Jobs and Workers’ Rights Maurice Quinlivan TD today called on the Minister for Business to step in and assist the 500 Molex workers who are to be made redundant over the next year after the company’s decided to close its Shannon based factory.

Speaking from Leinster House today, the Limerick TD said;

“This is devastating news for the 500 workers at Molex, many of whom have worked with the company in Shannon for decades.

“Molex is now one of the biggest employers in the area and has been operating in the Shannon Free Zone since 1971.

“This will be the biggest loss of jobs in the mid-west since the Dell plant closed in 2009. Combined with job losses at Roche and Moneypoint, it’s clear the mid-west needs far greater State support when it comes to jobs and employment opportunities.

“The job losses announced today are devastating, but also deeply concerning is the number of indirect jobs in local businesses which will also be affected by this news.

“The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, must ensure the workers affected are supported and offered re-training, further education and help finding new employment.

“I am also calling on IDA Ireland to focus on attracting new businesses to locate in the Shannon Free Zone, preferably from the same sector, which may alleviate some of these 500 job losses.

“This is very difficult news for the 500 staff affected and it’s vital they are supported by the social protection system in the short term and by the employment services and jobs agencies going forward.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Employment Affairs & Social Protection John Brady TD will introduce a Dáil motion calling for the establishment of a Child Maintenance Service this evening.

Speaking this morning, Teachta Brady said:

“This evening, as part of Sinn Féin’s campaign for the establishment of a Child Maintenance Service, our Dáil motion on this issue will be debated.

“I welcomed Minister Regina Doherty’s recent comments which indicated that she intended to change the current process of seeking maintenance payments through the courts.

“However, an allocation of funding announced in Budget 2020 to research child maintenance to establish guidelines which in the Minister’s own words will ‘hopefully’ be put on a statutory footing falls far short of what is required.

“Single parents are obliged to seek maintenance in order to qualify for the One Parent Family Payment and Jobseekers Transitional Payment and in many cases, this leaves them with no other option than to take their former partner to court.

"This puts lone parents in a very difficult position as well as the process being very daunting and time-consuming. After going through the court process, there is no guarantee that maintenance will actually be paid.

“We need to take child maintenance out of the courts service and into a statutory child maintenance service that will for the first time, support and assist lone parent families. This service will also play a key role in reducing conflict among families and as has been proven in other countries - including in England - will help to reduce child poverty.

“I am calling on all parties and none to support the motion before the Dáil this evening to ensure that this State does better for lone parent mothers and fathers and their children.”

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Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O'Neill MLA said if the DUP applied the same creativity and imagination into restoring the institutions as they have in denying rights the Assembly would be functioning. 

Michelle O'Neill said

"The DUP’s stunt in the Assembly today was pointless, and achieved nothing other than to bring the political institutions into further disrepute and further undermine public confidence. 

"It is not lost on the public that the first time the DUP recalled the Assembly was yet another attempt to deny a section of our community rights.

"If the DUP applied the same creativity and imagination into getting the institutions up and running as they have in denying rights we would have a functioning Assembly. 

"Sinn Féin welcomes the end of the denial of the right of our LGBT brothers and sisters to marry the person they love. 

"We send our solidarity to all those who campaigned and worked to get this most basic human right over the line.

"Sinn Féin also welcomes the end of the archaic law criminalising women.

"There is a clear need to legislate for modern compassionate health care services for women.

"We will now respond to the consultation on the future of women’s health care and make the case for the harmonisation of law across the island. 

"Sinn Féin believes these rights issues should have been dealt with by a functioning Assembly and Executive.

"That has not been possible as the DUP have not engaged in meaningful negotiation since it walked away from a deal and talks in February 2018.

"The DUP's denial of citizens’ rights, the negative impact of its toxic pact with the Tories and the British government’s abandonment of the impartiality required under the Good Friday Agreement have prevented the restoration of the institutions.

"Sinn Féin wants those institutions to be up and running on the basis of genuine power-sharing, of equality, rights and integrity and legislating for all.

"The next time we enter these institutions it should be to do real business with an Executive up and running and getting on with the serious work of government, on health, housing, education and the economy."

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Sinn Féin TD for Carlow/Kilkenny Kathleen Funchion has branded this morning’s Higher Education Authority (HEA) report into educational and social inequality as “conclusive evidence of a need for change”.

Speaking this afternoon Deputy Funchion said:

“This morning’s report by the HEA is indicative of educational and social inequality becoming ever more prevalent in Irish society and shows us a need for change within the educational system. 

“We’ve long known, at least anecdotally, that a barrier to accessing to third level education has been the financial means of students, so this is not surprising. 

“What was startling however is that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are being paid less than those from more affluent backgrounds to carry out the same task. 

“Much like when we have a conversation about the gender pay gap, such practices are deplorable, and more needs to be done to address it. 

“Sinn Féin have a longstanding position of wishing to see Higher Education free at the point of access; and have committed to abolishing third level fees. 

“While this is only a start, it ensures that access to education is not dictated by financial means. 

“Education in this country has at times been a postcode lottery, where schools in more marginalised areas are not given the supports they require; which perpetuates the problem of educational inequality. 

“It is not absurd to state that this is an issue of a social class system that exists, but that many refuse to acknowledge. 

“Social disadvantage is something that transcends all institutions of the state and is not limited to the education system. 

“The equality proofing of budgets may be one way of making a start on tackling such inequality and takes political bravery. 

“Finally, all the children of this state are deserving of equal access, opportunity, and insofar as is possible, equal outcome when it comes to receiving an education. 

“We must do more to empower students who require those additional supports, rather than allow this situation to continue indefinitely.

“A holistic approach is required on the part of Government; either that or they make way for representatives that are willing to tackle such inequality head on.

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Deputy Louie O’Reilly, has said the failure of the government to contain the spending overrun at the new national children’s hospital could create problems for future capital projects.

Speaking this afternoon, Teachta O’Reilly said:

"The revelations in the August minutes of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board of the resignation of Paul Quinn, the State’s chief procurement officer who was involved in the National Children’s Hospital project, and that the final figure for the children’s hospital is still unknown raises many questions about what the final cost will be for the project.

“The project is still being based off estimates and no concrete figure has been set for the final cost of the project. Given all that has happened over the past year with this project, that is incredibly concerning.

“With potential new overruns materialising, the government need to state what the current situation is because this could again create problems for future capital projects.

“There are billions of euros of taxpayers’ money at stake in this project and it has implications far beyond the health service.

“It is important that the costs are controlled and that a final figure is agreed for the cost of the project because it cannot be continually revised with the cost of increasing every time."

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Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has welcomed the opening of the £27m North West Transport Hub in Derry.

The Foyle MP said:

“Today’s opening of the new £27m Transport Hub is fantastic news for the city.

“This state-of-the-art facility will increase connectivity across the north west and provide a huge economic boost to the city.

“I commend those involved, including former Minister Chris Hazzard, in transforming this wonderful old building and bringing it into line with the 21st century.

“It also shows the value of EU funding which projects which will be stripped away as a result of the disastrous Tory/DUP Brexit agenda.

“We will continue to work to deliver further infrastructural improvements across the north west.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said today that the antics and bluster at Westminster will do nothing to allay the Brexit fears of workers, business or farmers. 

Mary Lou McDonald said:  

“Today we have witnessed more farce and dysfunction in the British ' House of Chaos'. 

“What happened today has nothing to do with Ireland, our interests, our economy or our agreements. No one should be under any illusion about that. 

“Today’s antics and bluster will not allay the fears of Irish workers, business or agri foods  producers and our border communities.

“The majority of the people of the north did not consent to Brexit. 

“It is being foisted on them against their democratic wishes.

“Sinn Féin will continue to work to defend Ireland from the worst impacts of Brexit and ensure there will be no hard border, no unionist veto and that the Good Friday Agreement will be protected.”

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Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan, today called for the Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privilege to investigate how Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley was recorded voting six times in the Dáil last Thursday despite not being present in the chamber.

Teachta Quinlivan also called for last Thursday’s Dáil votes to be re-taken, due to the “disgraceful behaviour of Fianna Fáil TDs who brought the integrity of the votes and that of the Dáil into disrepute.”

Speaking today Deputy Quinlivan, who had brought forward the Sinn Féin motion on the Living Wage which was part of the compromised votes, said;

ʺLast Thursday Sinn Féin brought forward an important motion on the Living Wage and sought the Dáil’s support for our policy on introducing a Living Wage for workers.

ʺI was delighted our Living Wage motion was passed by the Dáil, but unfortunately the behaviour of two particular Fianna Fáil TDs has brought this positive result into disrepute.

ʺI will be asking the Ceann Comhairle, in line with Standing Orders 76 and 77 which deal with irregularities of Dáil votes, to have these votes retaken next week, in order to remove this cloud of wrong-doing from the result.

“I will also ask the Ceann Comhairle to have the Committee on Procedure and Privilege to investigate the matter fully as well.

ʺI appreciate the retaking of the vote on our Living Wage motion may not deliver the same positive result, however I would prefer a genuine result, rather than one that had been tarnished by a compromised vote.

ʺIt’s an absolute disgrace that Fianna Fáil TDs think they can act with such disregard for the rules and show such a level of arrogance by voting in the name of another TD not present in the Dáil Chamber.

ʺI have no doubt the Ceann Comhairle will fully investigate serious wrongdoing, and I would expect Deputies Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins to at the very least apologise to the Dáil next week for their dishonest behaviour. ʺ

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has said the Department of Education needs to prepare and plan properly for the rapid growth in Irish Medium education.

The West Belfast MP said:

“I welcome news that Coláiste Feirste is to increase its enrolment from 600 to 910 pupils.

“But it is disappointing that the planned expansion into North Belfast to provide for the growth in that area on a separate site cannot proceed as no suitable site was found. 

“The North Belfast site would help cater for the increasing demand in Belfast for children who wish to continue their education in Irish after attending Irish medium primary schools.

“Coláiste Feirste will accommodate pupils in temporary classrooms at the existing school in west Belfast, but this is only a short-term fix.

“It is disappointing for the pupils, parents and staff of Coláiste Feirste that the Department of Education does not have a long-term strategy to meet this growth and fulfil their statutory obligations to encourage and facilitate Irish Medium. 

“Sinn Féin is calling on the Department of Education to prepare and plan properly for the rapid growth in Irish Medium Education.” 

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the decision of the Governor of the Central Bank to look into the issue of dual pricing in the insurance market, but has warned that anything short of banning the practice will be a bad result for Irish consumers.

Deputy Doherty wrote to the Governor of the Central Bank requesting an investigation into the practice of price discrimination on 25th September, and on 16th October submitted a formal complaint to both the Central Bank and CCPC requesting an investigation and justifying a banning of the practice of dual pricing in the insurance market. The Central Bank Governor responded to Deputy Doherty’s request this afternoon.

Teachta Doherty said:

“On September 25th I wrote to both Chairperson of the CCPC and the Governor of the Central Bank requesting an immediate investigation into the practice of dual pricing, or price discrimination, by the insurance industry. I also got the agreement of the Finance Committee to investigate this practice.

“On 16th October I submitted a lengthy complaint to both the Central Bank and CCPC requesting an investigation into the practice of dual pricing and justifying a ban of the practice in the market.

“Insurance companies in the Irish market are using dual pricing to target vulnerable customers who are more likely to renew and less likely to switch or shop around, and then charge them with extortionate prices. This is known as the loyalty penalty.

“Not only is this done without the knowledge of consumers, but it is known to target low-income and vulnerable groups, with some being charged premiums more than 100% higher than the average price for the same risk profile.

“A recent study by the Financial Conduct Authority in Britain found that price discrimination resulted in 6 million policyholders being overcharged a combined £1.2 billion in 2018 alone. They are now considering regulatory intervention that would ban the practice.

“In the United States, dual pricing has been made illegal in as many as 17 states, including California and Florida.

“Irish consumers deserve the same protections as anyone else. But Irish regulators have done nothing to confront this practice.

“I welcome Governor Makhlouf’s response to my complaint. However, I would view with caution his plan to carry out a ‘review’ of the practice.

“We want an investigation into this issue immediately, with a clear and short timeline for its conclusion.

“Following an investigation, we want to see the practice banned.

“The Consumer Protection Code 2012 makes clear that insurance companies should act honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of consumers.

“Dual pricing is practiced without the knowledge of consumers, discriminating against vulnerable groups and loyal customers, and undermining the integrity of the insurance market.

“While the Central Bank has no role in setting premium prices, it is able to ban pricing practices that are not compliant with the principles of fairness and transparency.

“It is clear therefore that the Central Bank has the power to ban dual pricing. Irish consumers deserve no less.

“I will be meeting with the Governor in the coming weeks to discuss my submission and make the case for banning the practice of price discrimination by the insurance industry.”

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