Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has once again called on the Infrastructure Minister to introduce more support and grant assistance to taxi drivers struggling as a result of the COVID-19.
Speaking after raising the issue at the Assembly’s ad-hoc committed on COVID-19, the Newry and Armagh MLA stated:
“This week I raised to the Infrastructure minister that resolving regulatory issues, such as driver license renewals, as soon as possible would help ease some of the anxiety the sector has right now.
“However, rapid financial assistance is what taxi drivers need most and Sinn Féin have been pushing the British Government for this.
“Additionally, according to the 2008 Taxi act, the Department is able to issue grants to taxi drivers and I have written to the minister to ask them to explore this option.
“Taxis provide a vital service to many members of the community; it is imperative that they are not left behind during this pandemic.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Finance Pearse Doherty has described the economic plans laid out in the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's joint document as incoherent and dishonest.
The Donegal TD has criticised the document for lacking detail, while laying the path for austerity in the future.
Teachta Doherty said: "The document produced by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is an economic con job built on sand.
"Despite promising a 'New Social Contract', the document is deeply conservative with austerity written between the lines.
"While the two parties make vague promises without any clear commitments in health, housing, childcare and climate action, their economic plans give the game away.
"The two parties' only firm commitment is to reduce the deficit through strict compliance with conservative European fiscal rules.
"Given the two parties are categorically ruling out progressive taxation, their economic plans pave the way for a squeeze on our pubic services.
"The only conclusion that can be drawn is that both parties are preparing the way for more of the same, with vague promises that will never be delivered and continued under-investment in our public services and housing provision.
"The economic plan put forward in this paper is economically incoherent and fundamentally dishonest. It is not the change people voted for.
"At this time of crisis, when the need for a social Europe has never been more urgent, both parties commit to deeper European integration without any mention of reforming the European Stability and Growth Pact, which hardwires austerity into fiscal policy at times of crisis.
"In fact, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael promise strict adherence to the EU Stability and Growth Pact as a central plank of their economic strategy.
"Together with their other economic priorities, this a policy of failure, which lacks the ambition necessary to deliver necessary change.
"Sinn Féin have long advocated for the fundamental reform of the EU fiscal rules and Stability and Growth Pact, which with their hawkish obsession with deficits.
"The economic plans of this document make the implementation of a Green New Deal and ambitious public housing programme impossible. It is a vision of the past, not the future."
"Many people over the age of 66 chose to continue working instead of retiring. They use their additional non-pension income to make ends meet, pay their mortgages and other bills.
"Many of these workers, like others across the State have lost their job or been temporarily laid off due to the current pandemic, many are self-employed and the Wage Subsidy Scheme is also not an available option.
"However, they are being discriminated against because of their age and cannot access the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
"The blanket exclusion of the over 66’s is wrong, it is unacceptable. These workers have paid taxes up until they lost employment and now the State has turned its back when they need financial assistance, that assistance is available to all other workers between 18-66.
"It was disappointing to see the Government rule out offering any sort of supports for over 66's that will give them a break during this unprecedented crisis. This is a time when we need to protect our most vulnerable and ensure people have sufficient financial aid to live and look after their families. The Government must act to ensure that anyone over 66 that has lost work can access a payment of €350 which is the rate for the Covid19 unemployment payment".
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has praised the Fire Service and the local community for working together to tackle a serious gorse fire near Loughmacrory, Co. Tyrone.
The West Tyrone MLA said:
“On Wednesday night a huge gorse fire engulfed an area just north of Loughmacrory village and went on through the night and is still continuing, in a more controlled way today (Thursday).
“Throughout the night there were fire crews from Omagh and Pomeroy assisted by local volunteers with shovels and farmers using tankers to extinguish the flames.
“I was at the scene for most of the night as part of a community volunteer team and I witnessed at first hand the vital role that the Fire Service plays in protecting our lives and property. This is particularly true as they are also risking their own health and well-being out during the Coronavirus crisis.
“Last night was also a proud example of the local community working in partnership with the Fire Service and is something I wish to encourage and promote.
“At extremely short notice we were able to assemble around 30 volunteers with shovels to beat the flames and many remained on standby with the Fire Service until the early hours. The local helpers were also able to assist the fire service personnel with their knowledge of local roads, lanes, access points and other details to make the operation more effective.
“We also made good use of social media and community messaging facilities to communicate to the public.
“Our farmers also rose to the call and adapted their slurry tankers to spray water on the flames, taking a bit of pressure off the Fire Service, while local members of the Community Association set up road blocks near the fire to deter onlookers who were creating congestion and delaying the fire appliances from getting through.
“This was a fantastic all round effort which I am certain saved people’s property and even lives.
“I want to commend the trojan work of the Fire Service and the local help who mobilised at such sort notice and particularly in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. While I am not certain yet as to how this fire started I note the Fire Service is treating it as deliberate.
“If this is the case, then it is a very selfish and criminal act which put the lives of hundreds of people at risk from both the fire and the Coronavirus as consistent social distancing is very challenging under these circumstances.
“If anyone has any information about how this fire started then I encourage you to make this known to police”.
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has said today’s announcement on exams will ease the concerns of some students and families.
However the Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson said further clarity is still needed.
Karen Mullan said:
“There is no perfect solution to the issue of exams which arises from the unprecedented public health crisis and the necessary decision to close schools as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Today’s announcement by the Education Minister will address some of the concerns and confusion of students and parents, but we still need further clarity.
“Given the circumstances, it’s expected there will be a high number of students who may wish to appeal the results they receive. This process must be robust and independent.
“I pressed the Minister to ensure students unable to avail of additional support during this school year aren’t placed at a disadvantage through the use of predicted grades.
“I am also calling on the Minister to ramp up cross-border cooperation with Departments in the south to support students entering the admissions process for cross-border study."
Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has this afternoon called on the Government to engage with the FAI and League Of Ireland to help secure the future of the league and its clubs.
The Cork South-Central TD and has also welcomed today's announcement that the SSE Airtricity League Working Group will reconvene.
Speaking this afternoon Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “It is crucial that the Department of Sport and its associated ministers develop a strategy to protect and safeguard the future of the League of Ireland in the coming months.
“The livelihoods of hundreds of people depend on the League and it is a vibrant community enjoyed by thousands of fans on a weekly basis.
“It cannot be taken for granted that domestic football will continue no matter what. Most clubs are teetering on the edge.
"If some support isn't provided, then many will struggle to remain in existence, including some of the biggest names in Irish football.
“The issue of football's sustainability is being discussed worldwide. But due to a lack of interest by successive ministers, it is not featuring in the sporting commentary around COVID-19 here as much as it should.
“We need a strategy - something that will complement and guide the work of the SSE Airtricity League Working Group. It is welcome to see that this group has be reconvened this afternoon.
“In the coming weeks, we need to deliver a set of proposals that protect the domestic game and the jobs that rely on it as well as the communities that support them.
"I will be contacting all League of Ireland clubs seeking their views and surveying them on their current position and what they need to survive.
“It is only in the last 24 hours that we have seen clubs which would be considered to be in the best financial health of all having to implement wage cuts. The Wage Subsidy Scheme has certainly given clubs some breathing space, but it is only sustainable for so long.
“This is undoubtedly an uncertain time for many involved in Irish football at a time when we we’re beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel after a tumultuous 18 months or so.
“While there are more urgent issues that may be facing society at present, there are still hundreds of people employed in the game and the future of the domestic game must be secured.”
Sinn Féin TD for Meath East Darren O'Rourke has said more must be done to help process the 'Be On Call for Ireland' applications after it emerged less than two per cent of applications have been processed since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Teachta O'Rourke has said that the current backlog should be cleared as quickly as possible as a matter of urgency to help relieve the pressure faced by our hospitals and frontline workers and to allow medical staff to do the work they signed up to.
Deputy O'Rourke said;
"This initiative is one with great merit and has tapped into the national mood to stand up and play our part for those in need. The response so far has been fantastic, with 73,000 applications to date.
"However, of the 14,000 candidates deemed satisfactory – that’s 14,000 qualified and registered nurses, doctors fit to work in medical laboratories, ambulance staff and healthcare assistants who are available to work immediately - just 1,300 are in the process of being made available for a role or have started a role.
"I am one of the 73,000 applicants. I signed up on 17th March. I am one of the 14,000 - I’m a qualified Medical Scientist - but I’m not one of the 1,300 yet deployed to work.
"With just two holding emails in a month from Be On Call for Ireland, I made my own arrangements through the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine and am on standby to return to the laboratory bench in the case of a surge. I am readily prepared to do that.
"This massive backlog raises many questions. We’re in the midst of unprecedented global health crisis, why isn’t more being done to maximise the level of staffing from the Be On Call for Ireland initiative?
"What is the Government doing to ensure applications are being processed more quickly and that 'job ready' applicants are being put to work in the areas of greatest need, as soon as humanly possible?
"Minister Harris needs to make clear what additional supports will be made available to this scheme to clear up the processing of applications.
"At a time when our health service is facing extreme pressure we need to do everything possible to support our frontline workers."
Commenting on the news that liquidators have been appointed to Debenhams Ireland, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould has said that the company must meet its obligations to workers who have been made redundant.
He has also called on the government to immediately put in place a support plan for retail workers who face job losses in the coming months.
"The news that a liquidator has been appointed to Debenhams Ireland will be very difficult for the company's workers.
"These workers have served the company very well; many for decades, and I am calling on Debenhams to meet its obligations to those who they have made redundant by engaging with the workers' trade union in an open, constructive manner to ensure a fair outcome for staff.
"When a person loses their job, the cost of living doesn't go away. Bills still have to be paid, money has to be found for mortgages and rents, and food still has to be put on the table.
"High street retail is taking a massive hit as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government must be proactive in developing a plan for the sector, focusing on sustaining businesses and jobs. This should include a comprehensive programme of education and retraining options that are specifically designed to build on the skills of these workers."
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has queried if the government did enough to protect nursing homes and keep COVID-19 from them considering new HSE guidelines instructing that residents in residential care who are COVID-19 Positive should be managed in their facilities and should only be transferred to a hospital if it will confer additional benefit.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Since the beginning of the COVID19 crisis we knew two things for certain – i) the virus would put incredible strain on our health services, and ii) it predominantly affected older people more.
“In spite of this, there were few precautionary structures proactively put in place to help and protect the nursing home sector.
“Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) were acutely aware of the risk and implemented nationwide visiting restrictions on private facilities on March 4th. By March 10th, officials said the visiting restrictions were premature and should be lifted, but just three days later the visiting ban was re-imposed as part of a package of restrictive measures announced by the government.
“On top of this, the nursing home sector was plagued by delays in receiving Personnel Protective Equipment for staff. A NHI survey of their members on 7th and 8th of April highlighted how 29% of respondent facilities were still awaiting PPE supplies while 25% said the PPE they received was not-fit-for purpose.
“It is in this context that the rate of COVID19 infections in the nursing home sector began to increase and we now have 200 clusters in the nursing home network of 560 homes. In addition, more than half of the COVID19 deaths so far in the state have been of people in our nursing homes and we currently hold the second highest mortality rate in care homes across Europe.
“The question here is if the HSE guidelines were changed to reflect that residents in residential care who are COVID-19 positive are to be managed in their facilities and should only be transferred to a hospital if it will confer additional benefit, then why were they not locked down first with a definitive and robust plan to protect their residents and staff?
“Despite of the catastrophic planning failures for nursing homes at the beginning of this crisis, we must do all we can to protect residents and staff in our nursing homes, and all residential facilities for that matter.
“Fast tacking the implementation of the package of measures agreed last weekend as well as increasing staffing supports and PPE provision will hopefully stop the chains of transmission in the nursing home sector.”
Note to editors: A copy of the questions Deputy O’Reilly will be putting to the Minister for Health can be found below;
1. To ask the Minister for Health what plans and protections were put in place to protect residents and staff in Nursing Homes before the HSE memorandum ‘Preliminary Clinical and Infection Control Guidance for COVID-19 in nurse- led Residential Care Facilities (RCF)’ was circulated to nursing homes instructing that residents in residential care who are COVID-19 Positive should be managed in their facilities and should only be transferred to a hospital if it will confer additional benefit.
2. To ask the Minister for Health why on 10th March the Chief Medical officer at the Department of Health said the visiting restrictions in Nursing Homes were premature and should be lifted, but just three days later the visiting ban was re-imposed as part of a package of restrictive measures announced by the government.
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed the launch of a £50,000 COVID19 response fund by Budget Energy.
Speaking, the Economy spokesperson said:
“Over the course of the last several weeks I have been in contact with energy suppliers and providers as well as the Department for Economy to represent the concerns of vulnerable citizens across the North.
“This is not only a time of great fear as the spread of COVID19 continues, but also a time of financial uncertainty for many citizens and families.
“I welcome the establishment of this COVID19 response fund by Budget Energy to support customers facing financial difficulty, the fund will provide a one-off £50 credit to bill pay customers or £50 top-up credit to kepypad custimers.
"The Consumers Council has also provided advice for vulnerable gas customers with pre-payment meters and encouraged anyone who is shielding or self-isolating to contact their provider if they have difficulty topping up.
“It is vital that energy providers ensure vulnerable customers and those facing financial difficulty are supported and I would call on other providers to put in place similar schemes."
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Linda Dillon MLA has welcomed increased focus on the impact of COVID-19 on domestic abuse and called for increased protection for victims during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said:
“As the Coronavirus pandemic continues it is of great concern that many victims of domestic abuse may be suffering more, and suffering in silence.
“I have been regularly engaging with Women’s Aid and the PSNI over the last number of weeks and they have been highlighting a number of specific concerns around domestic abuse in the current climate.
“Women’s Aid has the expertise in working with victims of domestic abuse, and it is vital that we listen to their concerns so that we can understand and address the issues.
“During COVID-19 there are already increased household tensions due to restrictions of movement, economic stress and health worries. When added to the increased time spent with perpetrators this largely escalates the threat of domestic abuse, cuts off escape routes and makes it more difficult for victims to seek help.
“To anyone who is currently suffering domestic abuse please remember that you are not alone and that help is available.
“You can contact the 24/7 Domestic and Sexual Abuse helpline on 0808 802 1414, and you can get in touch with the many Women’s Aid support services detailed in the graphic below. If you’re in an emergency, call 999.”
Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins has welcomed the announcement today that the issuing of water bills will be deferred until July at the earliest, after lobbying the Minister for Infrastructure to do so as a way to support people at this time.
The Newry and Armagh MLA stated:
“I am pleased that following my lobbying of the Minister for Infrastructure to consider the freezing of non-domestic water charges, she has today made an announcement that there will be a deferral of the issuing of non-domestic water bills until at least July.
“This will provide breathing space for those who are already facing very challenging times in light of the current Covid-19 crisis and I welcome the actions taken.
“Today I asked the minister if water bills already issued from the start of Covid-19 will also be deferred.
“Sinn Féin will continue to work to stand up for businesses and workers to ensure they receive an adequate level of protection throughout this period."
Sinn Féin MLA Emma Sheerin has said the next Irish government needs to seriously and actively plan for Irish unity instead of merely paying lip service to it.
Emma Sheerin said:
“The position on Irish Unity outlined in the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael document simply does not go far enough.
“Across Ireland it is clear there is a growing demand for Irish unity. The conversation on unity is already well underway.
“And while Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil claim to support the Good Friday Agreement, they continually run away from one of its key elements; a referendum on Irish unity.
“Time and again it has been shown that as an island we work best when we work on an all-Ireland basis.
“The potential of improving our economy, transforming our healthcare services and enhancing the prosperity of the entire island would be unlocked by unity.
“That is why bringing about Irish Unity ought to be a focal point of any new government.
That means the establishment of a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Irish Unity, an all-island representative Citizens’ Assembly or appropriate forum to discuss and plan for Irish Unity, a White Paper on Irish Unity and to secure referenda, north and south, on Irish Unity.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment David Cullinane TD has said that taking meaningful steps in respect of Climate Action must involve unprecedented investment in housing, transport and renewable energy.
“Climate Action is one of the biggest challenges of our time and demands urgent action.
“Sinn Féin is committed to ambitious and realistic carbon reduction targets. This can be achieved through phasing out fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy and prioritising spending on public transport, as well as building homes to the highest energy rating and undertaking an ambitious programme of retrofitting.
“We need to focus on concrete and deliverable measures to achieve meaningful carbon emission reductions - vague promises from parties who lack ambition will not cut it.
“We need a genuine Green New Deal to create jobs in emerging green industries. As we confront the climate crisis, we must also reshape our economy to create a more democratic, equal and sustainable society - the cornerstones of a Just Transition. This will not be achieved through regressive increases in Carbon Taxes.
“This will require significant capital investment to foster innovation, support research and development, and allow for the creation of new jobs and employment opportunities in green, clean and renewable energy enterprises.
“There will also be a requirement to re-orientate the National Development Plan to better align it with the core principles of the National Planning Framework and Rural Settlement Strategy.
”We need to ensure a coherent approach to spatial planning through sustainable regional development, balanced economic development and a coherent all-island public transport plan.
“Sinn Féin is serious about climate action, and providing sustainable jobs, decent homes and investment to develop the green economy are central to our approach. The reality is that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael cannot be trusted to deliver.”
Caoimhe Archibald has said businesses need direction on who can remain open and who must close in order to protect workers from COVID-19.
Caoimhe Archibald said:
“The issue of which businesses are classed as an essential service that can remain open and which businesses must close in order to protect staff and the wider public should already have been set out clearly.
“This information gap now needs to be addressed urgently.
“Businesses are already struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and this uncertainty and delay is only making that worse.
“The Executive established a forum under the Economy Department to look at this several weeks ago and it is now time businesses were given the direction they need.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed today's changes to the Wage Subsidy Scheme, but has said that more must be done to protect low-income workers.
"Two weeks ago, I called on Revenue and the Minister for Finance to reform the Wage Subsidy Scheme to protect the incomes of low-paid workers.
"Because employers were only required to pay 70% of employees' wages under the scheme, workers with weekly take home pay of less than €500 were receiving less that they would from the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment Payment.
"Sinn Féin had proposed a scheme that would guarantee 100 percent of workers' net weekly pay up to a maximum of €525 to avert this anomaly. Unfortunately this approach was not adopted by the government.
"However, I welcome today's changes which mean that employees with net weekly pay of between €412 and €500 will now receive a subsidy payment of €350.
"This announcement, though, still falls short of what is required - with workers with weekly pay of less than €412 still set to earn less than €350.
"Yet again the Minister has failed to step up and provide the necessary protections to workers on low pay.
"Sinn Féin will continue to work for greater income protections for those on low pay during and after this crisis."
EU Commissioner challenged by MacManus on Beef and Lamb imports
Chris MacManus, Sinn Féin MEP, today questioned the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Janusz Wojciechowski on the need for market interventions including the suspension of imports of beef and lamb to maintain prices.
The MEP for Midlands Northwest, called for the urgent need for market intervention, highlighting the dire situation faced by beef and lamb farmers in Ireland already facing financial ruin due to low prices.
Speaking after the committee meeting on the agricultural response to Covid-19, Chris MacManus said, “The Commissioner agreed that the need for market intervention was obvious but claimed that his hands are tied by the lack of money in the budget.
“It is not good enough for the Commission at a time of crisis to simply say that they do not have the financial resources to act.
“Sinn Fein have proposed to the EU Commission to engage with trade partners to suspend imports of beef and lamb. This does not require substantial financial resources and would have the immediate impact of removing beef and lamb from an over supplied market.
“The Commissioner began his address to the agriculture committee by stating the coronavirus has shown the need to shorten supply chains and reduce the distance between farm and fork. But this sentiment is hollow when the Commissioner refuses to consider the practical steps that could be taken.
The Commissioner cannot claim to be powerless to act due to a lack of funds in the budget and at the same time refuse to engage in a meaningful discussion about the possibility of reviewing Tariff rate quotas with an aim to suspending imports of beef and lamb from around the world entering the EU.
“This represents a means of market intervention to reduce supply that does not require financial resources. The Commission has shown no willingness to look beyond the inadequate market intervention tools that are used to respond to normal market volatility and were never designed to be of use in the face of such a global crisis".
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said Sinn Féin will not avail of the £10,000 increase in office cost allowances introduced by the British government.
Chris Hazzard said:
“As an Irish Republican political party which stands on a platform of Irish unity and which does not take our seats in the British Parliament, Sinn Féin MPs do not receive any salary from Westminster.
“This proposal to increase the office cost allowance by £10,000 is not an increase in MP or staff salary, but an uplift in office cost allowance for ensuring a constituency service can continue to operate remotely in these times of crisis and to meet the needs of constituents.
“Sinn Féin MPs will not avail of this increase.”
Correspondence received by Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh T.D. suggests that all who are currently serving on UN missions will not be allowed home until June 30th at earliest as part Covid-19 measures, yet this has not been communicated to the Defence Forces personnel or the families affected.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh said;
“Following representations received from Defence Forces members currently serving on missions abroad and seeking clarity on whether they would be returning home to their families on May 12th & May 19th I asked the Minister for Defence to provide me with an update.
“I have since received a letter from Minister Kehoe which still leaves unanswered questions and provides no certainty on whether these personnel, who are part of the UN's UNIFIL mission in Lebanon, will be rotated in less than one month’s time. This is despite the UN Secretary General's decision for a moratorium on rotations, thus extending current deployments till the end of June in order to mitigate transmission of the Covid-19 virus.
“I and some of my Sinn Féin colleagues have just today received further communication from Defence Forces personnel currently deployed abroad and due to return home on May 12th asking whether we can bring certainty to this situation for them as they are still in the dark.
“I believe it is only fair for all of these members and their families that a decision is communicated to them immediately that their time overseas is being extended if they are abroad, will be delayed or if they are awaiting deployment. There are other deployments effected, such as the MINUSA contingent in Mali who are due to return at end of the month, and personnel were also due to fly out to replace them.
“I think it is quite clear to anyone that reads the UN Secretary General's directive that the extension of UN deployments in South Lebanon and elsewhere is logical. I raised this with the Minister in the Dáil nearly three weeks ago, and still the decision to extend deployments had either not been communicated to those effected or even more worrying had not been made.
“If this is the case, then the Defence Forces Chief of Staff and Minister Kehoe must heed the UN Secretary General's decision and immediately make the decision and communicate to it to affected Defence Forces personnel and their families without delay.
"It would be bizarre if a decision has not be made at this stage, especially when it can be seen from the Minister's letter that a decision has been taken that overseas allowances would be extended to cover an elongated deployment."
Note to editors: A copy of Minister Kehoe's letter can be found below.
The moratorium on upcoming rotations and leave is designed to ensure the continued operations of essential peacekeeping missions, to protect vulnerable populations in conflict zones and tomaintain international peace and security. It is also designed to ensure the health and wellbeing of personnel deployed on UN operations by limiting movement of personnel into mission areas.
This is a decision which effects all contingents from all countries in all missions. The main impact for the Defence Forces will be on the deployments to MINUSMA in Mali where personnel are due to rotate later this month and for UNIFIL in Lebanon where personnel are due to rotate in two rotations in May, (12th and the 19th). The Defence Forces contingent in UNDOF in Syria rotated over the weekend so they are unaffected by the recent announcement.
The UN Secretary General has advised that limited exceptions may be considered in extremis and where they are required for the continuation of the delivery on the mission mandate, and on the basis of strict conditions being applied to prevent the spread of the virus. Decisions on any exception will be taken by the UN Headquarters in New York on a proposal from the Force Commander.
The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces have been examining the impact of the UN decision on Defence Forces personnel currently serving with UN missions. We are also examining the impact it may have on future deployments, so as to advise personnel and families accordingly. Personnel deployed overseas will be briefed by their commanders in the mission area. There is also ongoing engagement within the mission and with mission commanders to ensure that rotations can take place as close as possible to the original planned dates and in accordance with the direction of the UN Secretary General.
Ireland will continue to meet its commitments to UN and other multilateral peacekeeping operations in support of international peace and security through this challenging period to the greatest extent possible. Our aim is to maintain the integrity and operational capability of our overseas contingents in discharging their mandates. Protecting the health and welfare of our personnel remains a priority consideration throughout.
All currently deployed Defence Forces personnel whose overseas service is extended as a result of this UN decision will continue to receive their overseas peace support allowance for the extended duration of their deployment amounting to between €2,500 and €3,400 per month in addition to their normal pay. These allowances will continue to be paid free of tax. Personnel whose deployment is delayed due to any imposed UN moratorium on rotations, will serve their full six month tour of duty when deployed and will therefore be at no loss in terms of their expected overseas allowances of some €15,000 to €20,000 tax free for their 6 month deployment.
Personnel and families will be advised and updated by the Defence Forces as further information becomes available and as the implications of these decisions are fully evaluated to ensure that we can provide personnel and families with as much information as possible. The United Nations has assured of its absolute commitments to the health and safety of personnel in the field. UN missions are enforcing strict health and safety measures and infection protocols to keep personnel safe and well while continuing to carry out the important work of the UN mission.
It is uncertain at this time whether the rotation for KFOR will proceed given that the EU and UN have now both postponed rotations in their mission areas. In the event that it does proceed, the Department and the Defence Forces will examine all options available to rotate these personnel.
I trust this clarifies the current position in relation to this matter.
PAUL KEHOE, T.D.,
MINISTER WITH RESPONSIBILITY FOR DEFENCE
Sinn Féin deputy Dáil leader Pearse Doherty TD has described the joint framework paper published by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael this afternoon as a 'wish list of vague promises' - the aim of which is to keep Sinn Féin out of government and hoodwink people into thinking they will deliver change.
"For some time now, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been working to exclude Sinn Féin from government, and today's paper is nothing more than a wish list of vague promises - the aim of which is to keep Sinn Féin out of government and hoodwink people into thinking they will deliver the type of change that people voted for in the general election.
"The reality is that most of what is in this document will never see the light of day.
"They have proved - during their previous carve-up of power - that they are not short of spin, but are light when it comes to delivery.
"Everyone knows they can’t be trusted, and that a government involving both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will not deliver for ordinary workers and families.
"Delivering the change that people voted for means delivering the biggest house building programme in the history of the State, it means being able to see a doctor when you are sick, it means delivering truly affordable childcare, it means setting out proper climate change targets and it means ensuring that workers can avail of a State pension at 65.
"None of this is laid out in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's document.
"Real change requires a stable government that will lead - and deliver - and that is what Sinn Féin wants to see."