Sinn Féin have called for clear and robust criteria to be outlined before any decision is made to reopen schools.
The Party was responding to comments made by Health Minister Simon Harris over the weekend, which suggested that schools could be reopened one day a week on a phased basis.
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said that no steps should be taken that could undermine public health and that no move to reopen schools should be made unless there is absolute confidence in public safety.
Speaking today, Teachta O'Reilly said: “If the Government wants to reopen schools, and of course that is a desirable thing to work towards, we need to be confident that there is a plan to ensure that it is safe to do so.
"This must be an open, transparent and inclusive process. We need to have a benchmark or criteria that is reached in our response to the pandemic and this can only be arrived at after discussions involving public health officials, teachers and learners.”
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that flying kites has been an unfortunate element of the debate on educational issues throughout this pandemic.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “It is unfortunate that ideas that are not even half formed are floating out yet again, without any detail in them to allay concerns from parents, teachers and students about their safety.
"Of course parents and teachers want schools to open again, while children are missing their friends and social interaction they get from school.
"But the safety of students and teachers is the primary concern right now and schools should only reopen if it is safe for them to do so.
“This is something that cannot be done on a wing and a prayer and it cannot be an issue which is left to schools to figure out themselves.
“Schools and teachers will need guidance on, for example, how to manage social distancing at the school gate, on hygiene procedures, and if for examples gloves are needed and, if so, who provides them.”
“There also needs to be consultation with trade unions and educational partners.
“None of this detail is out there now. We do not know to what extent this idea has been measured against public health advice and in the absence of that, commentary of this kind from Minister Harris is unhelpful and premature.”
Tá sé ráite ag Teachta Dála Shinn Féin do Ghaillimh Thiar Mairéad Farrell go bhfuil an Ghaeltacht agus an Ghaeilge “in áit na leathphingine arís eile ag Fine Gael agus Fianna Fáil” sa gcáipéis polasaí atá aontaithe ag an dá pháirtí sin ar mhaithe le comhrialtas a bhunú.
Dúirt an Teachta Farrell:
“Tá cáipéis polasaí 24 leathanach aontaithe ag Fianna Fáil agus Fine Gael a leagann amach a gcuid tosaíochtaí don chéad rialtas eile. Caithfidh mé a rá gur cúis mhór iontais dom nach bhfuil fiú is aon tagairt amháin don Ghaeltacht sa gcáipéis seo. Is mór an náire í sin.
“Tá dhá thagairt fánach don Ghaeilge le fáil sa gcáipéis ach is fánach iad. Ar cheann acu tá gealltanas go dtabharfar deis do dhaoine óga meas a bheith acu ar an teanga agus is é atá sa gceann eile go dtabharfar aitheantas do ról na Gaeilge maidir le leas pearsanta an duine aonair agus leas an phobail. Is ionann é sin agus siombalachas fealltach i leith na teanga nach gcabhróidh léi a bheag ná a mhór.
“I ndeireadh na Dála tá an Ghaeltacht in áit na leathphingine arís eile ag Fine Gael agus Fianna Fáil. Tá a fhios againn cheana go bhfuil ráta dífhostaíochta sa nGaeltacht ar an iomlán i bhfad níos airde ná ceantracha tuaithe eile, cúig oiread níos airde i gceantair áirithe. Deich mbliana ó shin, in 2010, bhí buiséad caipitil €18 milliún ag Údarás na Gaeltachta. I mbliana níl ann ach €10 milliún. Le linn an ama sin tá ardú mór tagtha ar an méid a fhaigheann an IDA agus Fiontraíocht Éireann.
“Tá an t-uafás bearnaí fós i leith infreastruchtúr na Gaeltachta. Fadhbanna móra maidir le soláthar uisce, bóithre, córais séarachas, leathanbhanda agus eile. Mura bhfuil Fianna Fáil ná Fine Gael sásta fiú aird ar bith a thabhairt ar ghéarchéim na Gaeltachta i gcáipéis thábhachtach mar seo, shílfeá gur beag an seans go mbeidh fuascailt in ann do na fadhbanna seo.
“Caithfear clár rialtais a aontú sa stát seo a thugann aghaidh ar na ceisteanna is mó atá ag goilliúnt ar an bpobal. Tá an ghéarchéim teanga, infreastruchtúr agus fostaíochta sa nGaeltacht ar cheann acu sin, gan aon cheist.
“Má tá an chéad rialtas eile dáiríre faoi shlánú na Gaeltachta, is é a bhéas ar a gclár oibre - Aire Sinsearach don Ghaeilge agus don Ghaeltacht; toghcháin phoiblí do bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta mar aon le maoiniú agus cumhachtaí breise; geallúint go gcuirfear maoiniú cuí ar fáil do phleananna teanga; agus plean mór infheistíochta i gcomhair infreastruchtúr na Gaeltachta.”
Note to editors: English copy below.
Gaeltacht "in the ha'penny place" one again by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael - Mairéad Farrell TD
Sinn Féin TD for Galway West Mairéad Farrell has said that the Gaeltacht and the Irish language have been left in "the ha'penny place once again by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael" in the policy document agreed by both parties as the basis for government formation.
Deputy Farrell said:
"Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have agreed a 24 page policy document that lays out their key priorities for the next government. It came as a surprise to me to find that there is not even one mention of the Gaeltacht in this document.
"There are two references to the Irish language, but they amount to meaningless rhetoric. One commitment is for every child to be given 'the opportunity to develop their creativity, appreciate the Irish language, and learn history.' The other is to recognise 'the role of the arts, culture and the Irish language in our personal and community wellbeing'. These statements reflect the kind of deceitful symbolism towards the language that will deliver nothing in practice.
"At the end of the day, the Gaeltacht has been left in the ha'penny place once again by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. We already know that the unemployment rate is a lot higher in the Gaeltacht compared to other rural areas, up to five times higher in certain regions. Ten years ago Údarás na Gaeltachta - the primary employment creation body in the Gaeltacht - had a capital budget of €18 million.
"This year it is only €10 million. During that same period, there has been a significant increase in the amount of funds granted to the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.
"Many gaps remain in Gaeltacht infrastructure. There are major problems with water supply, road quality, waste water treatment systems, broadband and more besides. If Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are not even happy to include one reference to the Gaeltacht in a policy document as important as this, what hope do we have that they will go about address these various crises?
"A programme for government is required that takes on the big issues facing ordinary people. The language, infrastructure and employment crises in Gaeltacht regions have to be included in this.
"If the next government is to genuinely protect the future of our Gaeltacht, the work plan needs to include at a minimum: a Senior Minister for Irish language and Gaeltacht affairs; public elections to the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta along with adequate funding and powers; commitments to properly fund language plans; and a major infrastructure plan for the Gaeltacht."
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has warned people to be wary of so-called “unlimited” telephone call bundles offered by Eir, and other service providers, which will charge customers extortionate rates once the usage cap in the terms and conditions has been exceeded.
The Donegal TD has called on Eir and other service providers not to disconnect customers during this crisis and not to enforce any fair-usage caps which are hidden away in the small print of the contracts.
Deputy Doherty said:
“In recent days I’ve come across some harsh and unfair practices by some service providers, including Eir. These providers are offering so-called 'unlimited' calls to customers as part of their packages. The reality is very different, and these packages are in fact limited and subject to fair-usage caps in the small print of the contract.
“As people are cocooning and staying at home, they are depending on their landlines, mobiles and internet to arrange food, prescriptions and to stay in touch with family more than ever before.
“I have recently been contacted by an elderly couple in Donegal who had signed up for the so-called unlimited 'eir Broadband Talk Mobile World' package which offered them 'unlimited anytime local and national calls to landlines, unlimited calls to UK and defined international destination landlines and mobiles, unlimited anytime calls to Irish mobiles'. The couple, who are pensioners, had chosen this package to make sure they could stay in touch with family and friends before the crisis. As the crisis developed, they relied on their landline as their link to the outside world.
“Having paid their bill on time each month, they were distressed when their landline was disconnected by Eir at the start of Easter weekend, in the middle of their billing cycle, without warning. They were told that they had exceeded the fair usage caps in the small print of the contract. Eir then refused to reconnect the couple’s landline without first receiving payment in the amount of hundreds of Euro. This is grossly unfair, deceitful and is deliberately misleading and dangerous.
“As monthly bills start to come through the letterbox for the period in which people have been staying at home, I am asking people to be mindful of the small print. It shouldn’t be the case that people with 'unlimited' packages have to monitor their usage but unfortunately the recent actions of Eir have shown this to be the reality.
“I am calling on Eir and other service providers to cut the nonsense and be clear with customers. Service providers need to stop hiding behind the small print and misleading people. The package is either unlimited or it is not. During this crisis Eir and others should not be enforcing the fair-usage policies that they have hidden in the small print of the contracts. By disconnecting landlines without warning, Eir have put this already vulnerable couple at risk during a public health emergency and it is disgraceful.
“My colleague and party spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, David Cullinane TD and I, are calling on the Minister to immediately engage with service providers and with ComReg to ensure that commitments given by service providers not to disconnect customers are honoured and that the fair usage small print is not enforced during this crisis."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Maurice Quinlivan TD has said the last few weeks has exposed the urgent need for legislation to cover the various issues thrown up by hundreds of thousands of people now working from home.
Speaking today, Deputy Quinlivan said;
“The past few weeks have shown how hundreds of thousands of people, who normally don’t work remotely, can do so effectively from their own homes.
“There is no doubt the benefits of this are huge; reduced traffic and emissions, less time spent commuting means more time to spend with friends and family, no need to rent expensive urban residential accommodation and more money in people’s pockets as a result.
“Although there are a host of benefits to remote working, some pitfalls have been exposed in the past few weeks, and legislation needs to be put in place to regulate this area and protect employees.
“Workers cannot be left out of pocket either for hardware like laptops or printers, or services required like broadband and electricity, when asked to work from home. Employers need to provide the equipment required if they want staff to work remotely.
“Data protection and the handling of sensitive information is another key issue that needs to be covered, to ensure the protection of employees, employers and third parties.
“A right to disconnect should also be incorporated into this legislation, as it is vital for people’s health and well-being to normally separate work and home life, and even more so when working from home.
“While some will be content to work some or all of their time from home, others find an office environment more appealing for a number of reasons; more conducive to their style of work, socialising with colleagues, lifestyle routine, or just simply getting out of the house.
“Workers should not be forced to work from home if this is not their preference, as this could lead to social isolation or exclusion from a unionised workplace. That’s why Sinn Féin believe it’s essential trade unions are centrally evolved in drafting legislation governing this area.
“It is clear Covid-19 is with us for the short to medium term, so the government must legislate in this area once this pandemic has ended to ensure workers can sustainably work from home without facing any widespread difficulties or issues.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on the Minister for Education and the State Examinations Commission to introduce an extended waiver scheme for Leaving Cert fees and to confirm that fees paid by Junior Cert students will be refunded.
"In the last few weeks, students and their families have been receiving demands for the payment of fees for both Junior Cert and Leaving Cert examinations.
"As the Junior Cert will not proceed in a normal manner, fees should not be charged and those who have paid these fees should receive a full refund.
"In relation to the Leaving Cert, students still face a great deal of uncertainty as to the timing of exams and demands for fees are coming at a time when people in many households have lost their jobs.
"Asking families in this situation for €116 per student will put many of them under financial pressure and steps need to be taken to assist those who will struggle to pay these fees. In my view, anyone in need of a waiver should receive one - similar to the waiver available to those who hold a medical card.
"I would urge the Minister for Education to recognise that this is not a normal exam year and to take appropriate action by putting in place an extended waiver scheme for those who need it."
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said businesses need further support and this should include targeted rates relief.
The party's economy spokesperson said:
"COVID19 has had a devastating impact on the economy.
"The Executive's support so far, including business grants and rates relief, has been welcome; however more support will be needed to help businesses survive and recover.
"This support should include further rates relief, targeted at where it is most needed. Copying the scheme operating in England would not be a good use of scarce resources as it subsidises supermarkets which continue to trade very successfully.
"Sinn Féin has worked with Executive colleague to protect lives and livelihoods and we will continue to do so."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health Louise O'Reilly TD has raised concerns about the deal struck between the HSE and private hospitals, saying that the State has agreed a minimum payment of at least €345 million but has agreed no maximum price.
"Bed capacity in the public health system has been a major challenge for some time, and supplementing this capacity with private hospital beds in light of the Covid-19 pandemic was the correct decision to make.
"However, the contractual arrangement that the HSE have entered into - insofar as they and the Minister for Health will reveal - illustrate that this is a very good deal for private hospitals, but potentially a very bad deal for the taxpayer.
"A minimum cost of at least €345 million has been agreed, but no maximum price has been set.
"The reality is that we don't know what the final cost of this deal will be, but it will be much higher than the Minister and the HSE have acknowledged publicly at this point.
"On top of all this, it is not certain what level of capacity is being utilised in these hospitals to the benefit of public patients as no figures have been provided.
"The Minister for Health needs to publish these numbers and the full details of the projected cost of this deal without delay."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has described Fianna Fáil's proposal to lease homes for 100 years from private developers to meet social housing need as 'the height of economic stupidity.'
"Fianna Fáil have proposed leasing homes from private developers for 100 years to meet social housing need. This proposal is the height of economic stupidity.
"There are currently two government leasing schemes. The standard long-term scheme sees property owners lease properties to local Councils for 25 years. Because Councils are liable for the cost of maintenance, the cost of the lease is substantially below market rent and the average cost of these leases as of the end of 2018 is €8,000 per year.
"This would mean that the cost of acquiring a property under lease for 100 years would be €800,000. Given that the average cost of building a new Council house is currently €234,000; a long-term lease would be three and a half times more expensive than building.
"A second leasing scheme was introduced in January 2018 called the Enhanced Leasing Scheme where the property owner maintains the landlord function and in return gets 95% of market rent for the duration of the lease.
"With Dublin rents averaging €1,750 per month, the cost of an Enhanced Lease would be €1,662 per month, or €19,000 per year (€1.9 million over 100 years).
"Both forms of leasing scheme represent exceptionally bad value for money for the taxpayer and these schemes need to be phased out, not extended.
"That Fianna Fáil would propose such a giveaway to property developers is no surprise - that’s what they did when they were last in government and it wrecked the economy.
"The best solution to address the social housing crisis is to increase capital investment in public housing on public land to meet social and affordable need - something both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have refused to do for decades."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on the Minister for Education to establish a dedicated support helpline and counselling service for Leaving Cert students who have been impacted by the decision to postpone this year's exams due to Covid-19.
"The last few weeks have been incredibly difficult for most people; not least Leaving Cert students who are enduring great anxiety and stress at the moment.
"The priority at this point in time needs to be the safeguarding of students welfare and mental health, and there is a need for a dedicated helpline to provide counselling and support services to help deal with the pressures students are facing.
"I am aware that some supports are available through the National Psychological Service, but in my view we need a dedicated helpline that is resourced to provide mental health supports and also the ability to answer questions that students may have; acting as a one-stop-shop for queries.
"The Leaving Cert presents an enormous challenges at the best of times but it has been made even more daunting this year by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"That is why we need a dedicated and well resourced counselling and mental health helpline, and I urging the Minister for Education and his Department to establish this as a matter of urgency."
Sinn Féin health spokesperson Colm Gildernew has called on the Minister for Health not to adopt new guidance from Public Health England (PHE) which puts the health and safety of frontline health workers at risk.
Speaking after PHE published revised guidance on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in light of shortages, Mr Gildernew said:
"The revised guidance on PPE shortages released for England is deeply concerning and must not be adopted.
"Of particular concern within these revised guidelines is that single use PPE can be re-used – something such PPE is not designed to do.
"This will put frontline health staff – already putting themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis – at an increased risk.
“It's simply not acceptable.
"I spoke directly with Minister Swann today to emphasise the deep concerns felt by health workers and urged him not adopt these or similar guidance for the north of Ireland.
"This worrying development emphasises the very serious situation about shortage of PPE, which Sinn Féin has been raising for weeks.
"The Department of Health needs to listen to frontline workers and their unions; give assurances that the revised guidance will not be adopted here and the minister should redouble his efforts to ensure sufficient supply of PPE is secured and made available when and where it is needed."
The aim of the joint framework paper prepared by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael this week is designed to ‘keep them in power and to keep Sinn Féin out’, according to Louth TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.
The Dundalk-based TD was critical of the document which he called ‘a wishy-washy shopping list of promises’ which is ‘designed to keep Sinn Féin out of government while paying lip-service to our policies’.
Deputy Ó Murchú said:
“This is the archetypical Late Late Show audience giveaway – there’s something for everyone in this document’.
“There is even the suggestion they would create a unit that would plan for Irish reunification and commitments to ‘support efforts towards a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Since the election results, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been working hard to exclude Sinn Féin from government and refuse to hear the voices of the people who voted for us. That has been their main aim and this document is just an extension of that.
“It is a pity that it has taken a global pandemic for them to begin to see that attainable housing, universal healthcare and affordable childcare were the issues that the voters wanted action on.
“When the pandemic is over, we will be facing an opportunity to shape a new Ireland, a new world. This document is designed to lure smaller parties into coalition with them and to make people think these two parties will deliver real change – it is really about keeping them in power.
“Voters won’t buy what they’re selling here, because they have a long, long history of not delivering. Fine Gael in particular are the masters of spin, but are lacking when it comes to actual delivery.
“What people voted for in the general election is change and that change means the biggest housing building programme in the State’s history, being able to see a doctor when you are sick, affordable childcare, meaningful climate action and the right to a State pension at 65.
“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will not deliver this. Real change needs stable government that will lead by example and deliver. That is what Sinn Féin wants to see.
“Sinn Féin has shown our ability to work with everyone in order to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
“We would have liked a greater level of engagement with government which would have assisted in smoothing out the issues that have emerged in social protection, in PPE provision and in other areas and which could have led to better results for people.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, people are looking for mature politics and discourse, rather than old-style power grabs.”
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson Brian Stanley TD met with Agriculture Minister Michael Creed this week regarding necessary and urgent interventions needed in the sector to support primary producers.
At the meeting Deputy Stanley raised the dire situation in the beef sector, the need for a halt on non-eu beef imports, the need to diversify food production, and to front-load CAP direct payments.
Speaking today, the Laois-Offaly TD said:
"At our meeting, I made it clear to the Minister that our farmers and workers within the sector must be supported through state intervention if we want our food supply chains to continue to operate as normal.
"First of all we need to see maximum flexibility regarding the front-loading of CAP direct payments. If we want to avoid cash-flow issues down the line then we will need to see greater capital provided to primary producers up-front. Minister Creed assured me that this was being pursued.
"Beef has dropped to €3.40 per kilo, a price which is below production cost and cannot be sustained. If we want to see this sector survive, and if EU countries also want a continued supply of beef from Ireland, we need a new emergency financial aid package to support the sector.
"We are still seeing a large amount of non-eu beef being imported into the EU. This makes no sense when beef farmers are under such serious financial pressure. I have called on the Minister to push for an EU-wide suspension of non-EU beef (excluding the North of Ireland) and it has been confirmed to me that this will be raised.
"Last of all, we need to protect workers' rights. This means that factories, producers and processors need to abide by the HSE guidelines regarding social distances and hygiene."
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Seán Crowe has sent solidarity greetings to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli jails.
180 Palestinian children currently detained by the Israeli state. There is also now a real concern of an outbreak of COVID-19 among the cramped prison population.
The Dublin South West TD said:
“I want to send the solidarity greetings of myself and the Sinn Féin party to all those Palestinians, imprisoned in Israeli jails for resisting the occupation of their homeland. We also want to extend that solidarity to the thousands of families and loved ones of those prisoners; your sons, daughters, and children are not forgotten and are in our thoughts.
“Since the beginning of March this year, the Israeli military have arrested over 350 Palestinians and over 1,300 since the start of 2020. This tactic of widespread arrest and arbitrary detention of Palestinians, including children, is used as a tool to suppress the desire for freedom and oppress the resistance to the occupation by the people of Palestine
“For decades, Israel has been tightening its repression and trying without success to assert its control over Palestinian prisoners. There are approximately 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 180 children, 41 female prisoners, 6 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council members, and 430 administrative detainees held in jails throughout Israel.
“Access to health care is used to try and break the morale of prisoners. Approximately 700 of these prisoners have various illnesses with more than 200 suffering chronic diseases that need comprehensive medical care.
“We share the concerns of Palestinian leaders and prisoners’ representatives who have expressed their mounting concern and fear over the spread of COVID-19 inside these prisons which are overcrowded, lack adequate ventilation, not maintained to basic hygiene standards, poor nutrition and access to exercise, and which do not offer prompt and quick access to medical care.
“Any outbreak of COVID-19 would be catastrophic to the prison population and the risk is only heightened by the ongoing daily arrests and detention of new additional Palestinian prisoners.
“Israel needs to stop its occupation, its mass detention of Palestinians, and abide by international and human rights law. We know from our own struggle that inhumane treatment of prisoners and a vindictive prison policy will not break the Palestinian desire for independence, freedom, and self-determination.
“We are thinking of you and your families today.
“Stay strong, stay united and in the words of the Irish Republican Prisoner Hunger striker Bobby Sands, ‘They have nothing in their entire arsenal to break the spirit of one single political prisoner-of-war who refuses to be broken’.”
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has called for an investigation into the role of the British state in the activities of leading loyalist Gary Haggerty following today’s ruling at the Court of Appeal.
The party's Justice Spokesperson said:
“Today’s judgement from the Court of Appeal which found that the sentence handed down to leading loyalist Gary Haggerty was unduly lenient raises serious questions.
“By his own admission, Haggerty was involved in a series of murders and his sentence did not reflect that.
“During this time he was also an active state agent and was providing information that, if acted upon, could have prevented deaths.
“Victims of his crimes and the activities of the Mount Vernon UVF have a right to full disclosure of the role of the British state in the deaths of their loved ones."
Colm Gildernew MLA and Sinn Féin spokesperson for health has welcomed additional detail over the official death rate figures from COVID-19.
Speaking after the weekly NISRA figures on COVID-19 deaths identified an additional 39 deaths in care homes and in the community linked to COVID-19 up to the 10th April, compared with previously published data for the same period.
Colm Gildernew said:
“Sadly the reality is that every figure and statistic is a life lost, and represents a family and a community grieving for a loved one.
"I want to extend my condolences, thoughts and prayers, to all those impacted by each loss.
"I welcome this additional data from NISRA which provides a clearer picture of the real death rate due to COVID-19.
“It is essential we know the impact of COVID-19 in terms of case rates and death rates.
“This will better inform us about the spread of the virus and about the effectiveness of the measures taken to date.
“I have been pressing the Department of Health for some time to include details on deaths occurring outside of hospitals.
“This information is vital given we have known for some time about the vulnerability of people in settings such as care homes.
"Test, trace, isolate, is the clear message from the World Health Organisation.
"Only through extensive testing and contact tracing, including in the community and non-hospital settings such as care homes, can we properly identify the impact of the virus and ultimately save lives."
Sinn Féin Seanadóir Niall Ó Donnghaile has commended staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs for assisting 5,000 people with returning to Ireland during the COVID19 crisis.
Niall Ó Donnghaile said:
“Staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Embassies and Consulates around the world have been working extremely hard in unprecedented circumstances to to assist Irish citizens abroad to return home.
“As the COVID19 crisis deepened and flights became less frequent, staff worked to secure alternative ways home, including repatriation flights and through commercial airlines.
“Sinn Féin representatives were inundated by people stranded abroad in places like Australia, New Zealand, Peru and Chile attempting to return home to their families.
“We worked extensively with DFA staff around the world in assisting their efforts and helping to ensure better information sharing and communication.
“It’s welcome that over 5,000 citizens have now successfully returned home to Ireland to be with their families during this public health crisis. Those still needing to return should follow the latest advice and information from the department.
“Please keep following public health advice, support our health workers by staying at home and saving lives.”
FF/FG power grab shows contempt for electorate - Chris MacManus MEP
Sinn Féin’s Midlands Northwest MEP Chris MacManus has said Fianna Fail and Fine Gael’s attempts to continually exclude Sinn Féin shows contempt for the democratic will of the people.
MacManus said “This joint document is an incoherent attempt at convincing the electorate that they will implement Sinn Féin style policies. Terms like ‘New Social Contract’ are smoke screens attempting to appease the majority of voters who do not support them”
“Make no mistake this is a document that lays out a deeply conservative future of severe austerity in strict compliance with European financial rules. There’s no hint of progressive taxation. Once again, the low to medium earners will be hit hardest, whilst those who can afford additional taxation measures will escape unscathed.”
The Sligo MEP stated that the document fell well short of expectations. “It’s a publication that lacks imagination and ambition. There are no clear commitments to progressive changes in health, housing, childcare and climate action. These were the major issues of the recent general election. Issues the electorate demanded change in yet we’re being forced to settle for more of the same.”
“The issue of Irish Unity is a mere footnote in this framework document. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil can’t claim to support the Good Friday Agreement and simultaneously shy away from one of its key elements; a referendum on Irish unity. We’ve witnessed the stark dangers of a divided island in the last number of weeks. two different sets of advice from our media; two different health systems; two different lockdown dates; two different compensation payments for cross-border workers, and no doubt two different dates for when restrictions are finally lifted. The border is damaging to the lives of the people on both sides of it.
MacManus concluded by saying “This was an opportunity for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to address all of these major issues, but instead they’ve cobbled together a panicked document to try to exclude Sinn Féin from Government whilst cynically using the current crisis as a mechanism to grab power from those with the mandate for change.”ENDS
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Fingal and spokesperson on Health Louise O'Reilly has said that concerns surrounding Keelings warrant urgent government attention.
"Concerns have been expressed by many people here in north Dublin, and further afield, in respect of the decision by Keelings to fly seasonal workers into Dublin yesterday.
"I wrote to the Minister for Health on this matter last night, and is vital that the government addresses concerns being raised and sets out what self-isolation and physical distancing measures are in place to prevent possible transmission of Covid-19 amongst these workers and the wider community.
"The government also needs to work with trade unions to ensure that all workers can live and work safely in line with health regulations, and there needs to be an open and effective system of workplace inspections to protect workers, their families and communities.
"We are also looking for clarity from the government about how they intend to handle this situation going forward in the context of current restrictions to protect public health."
With Ireland facing one of the highest rates of Covid-19 infection in Europe amongst healthcare workers, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health Louise O'Reilly TD has called today for urgent transparency in respect of healthcare worker Covid-19 infection rates.
"I note with great concern the publication of statistics by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation today showing that there has been a large increase in rates of Covid-19 infection amongst healthcare workers; over a third of whom are nurses.
"With 26% of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Ireland occurring amongst healthcare workers, this represents one of the highest levels of transmission in Europe.
"The provision of adequate PPE is an issue that I have raised consistently, including during yesterday's Dáil sitting, but it is obvious that there are still matters of grave concern amongst healthcare workers in this regard.
"These concerns need to be heeded by the government, the Department of Health and the HSE, and I support the call of the INMO for a universal policy in respect of facemasks in healthcare settings - this is long overdue.
"I also believe there is an urgent need to ensure that official Covid-19 infection rates in respect of healthcare workers are published on a consistent basis to ensure that workers have access to the most up-to-date, transparent and reliable information, instead of having to rely on periodic updates from the HSE."