Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has condemned threats against 22 independent lawyers who represent the FARC at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz - JEP) in Colombia.
Deputy Crowe said:
“I am very concerned about reports that 22 lawyers who represent the FARC at the JEP have received death threats from a right-wing paramilitary group called the Black Eagles.
“One of the lawyers threatened is Diego Martínez. He is currently providing legal support to the family of the former FARC combatant Dimar Torres who was murdered by the Colombian Army.
"In October, the UN said that at least 151 FARC members in the reincorporation process had been killed since the signing of the peace agreement three years ago.
“Martínez had been providing legal advice and technical defence to other former members of the FARC for several years. He has protectionary measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights due to previous death threats.
“Overall, more than 500 political and social activists have been killed since the peace deal was signed in November 2016.
“I am calling on the Colombian government to provide additional and stronger security measures for these lawyers and to properly investigate these increasingly worrying threats.
“The Colombian government must unequivocally and strongly reject these threats against these lawyers.
“I will also urgently raise this case with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has accused Fine Gael of failing working families and young people through its disastrous housing policies. Government policy is contributing to “rent despair” as rents continue to escalate.
On Tuesday, the latest Daft.ie report was published which revealed that for the 14th Quarter in a row rents have increased.
Teachta Adams said:
“Working families and those on low incomes are facing increasing pressures from cost of living increases, including rents. Daft.ie reported that rents in Louth and Meath have doubled in the last ten years. Currently the average rent in Louth is €1,236 which is a 3.6% increase on last year.
"Rental increases are impacting on families across the state and forcing increasing numbers into homelessness. Tens of thousands are trapped in rent despair as a result of government policy. In addition many others are being forced out of the rental market and out of the possibility of ever having a permanent home of their own.
"The reality is that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, their partners in government, have done nothing to reduce rental costs. Micheál Martin’s adoption of Sinn Féin’s demand for a rent freeze rings hollow given that this government only survives with Fianna Fáil support.
"Very clearly the government’s housing policy, including the system of rent control zones, is not working.
"There is a crisis in housing. There is a crisis in the rental market. Strong and effective measures are needed. Sinn Féin believes that there should be a three-year rent freeze and a tax break equal to one month’s rent.
"These are two crucial measures that would make a real, substantial difference for those struggling with sky-high rents.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health Pat Sheehan has called on the Department of Health to publish the neurology recall report as a matter of urgency.
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams and Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú have called for talks between DkIT and the TUI.
Deputy Adams commented following recent media coverage which suggests possible industrial action by TUI members at DkIT.
Gerry Adams said;
“I have met with the President of DkIT Michael Mulvey many times.
“We have discussed a range of issues relating to the Institute, including the future status of DkIT.
“I understand that DkIT is currently involved in a strategic planning process which will explore possible future designations for the Institute.
“I know that staff have indicated their overwhelming support for the pursuance of Technological University status.
“I have written to Michael Mulvey and the TUI to request that they meet as soon as possible to find a resolution to current difficulties.”
Councillor Ó Murchú added;
“Sinn Féin supports the development of Technological University status for DkIT alongside the deepening of ties to other educational institutions across the region, including in the north.
“We have written to Michael Mulvey on this matter and I will meet with him this week to discuss further.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the decision by the Central Bank to investigate the price discrimination by the insurance industry.
Before the Finance Committee today at Deputy Doherty’s request, the Central Bank confirmed they were undertaking a review into the impact of dual pricing on consumers and provide recommendations to deal with the findings.
Deputy Doherty wrote to the Governor of the Central Bank requesting an investigation into the practice on 25th September, and warned that any review must be followed by an option to ban the practice by the industry outright.
Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:
“On the 24th September I asked the Central Bank to come before the Finance Committee to discuss dual pricing by the insurance industry, and the following today wrote to the Central Bank requesting that they investigate the practice and ultimately ban it.
"Companies are targeting renewing and vulnerable customers and charging them with extortionate prices in the expectation that they will not ask questions or shop around.
“This is unfair, anti-consumer, and must be stopped. It is discriminating against vulnerable customers and another example of the industry’s unfair practices in the market.
“I am pleased that the Central Bank have agreed to my request, and will undertake a review to find out the impact this harmful practice has on consumers, with recommendations for further action.
“In the United States dual pricing has been made illegal in as many as 17 states, including California and Florida. In Britain, regulators are considering banning the practice outright. Irish consumers deserve no less.
“While I welcome the fact that the Central Bank have agreed to my request, I am concerned that the recommendations following this review will fall short of the bold action that is required to protect consumers.
“The Consumer Protection Code 2012 makes clear that insurance companies should act honestly and fairly in the best interests of consumers. Dual pricing is practiced without the knowledge of consumers and discriminates against vulnerable groups and loyal customers.
“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 as the power to ban dual pricing. Irish consumers deserve no less. Sinn Féin will continue to push for the best outcome for those who are being ripped off by insurance costs.
“I am also pleased that my request to invite Liberty Insurance, AXA, FBD, Aviva and An Post before the Committee to discuss the practice of dual pricing was agreed to, and I look forward to challenging their pricing practices.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment and Workers Rights, Declan Kearney, has said that underpaid workers in the health system deserve the support of the community.
The South Antrim MLA was speaking after UNISON announced that its members had voted in support of industrial action to highlight the main issues of pay justice and safe staffing levels.
Declan Kearney said:
"The decision by UNISON members to take industrial action comes just days after the Royal College of Nursing made a similar announcement.
"There is a crisis within the health service in the north caused by Tory austerity, and which has resulted in workers, and patients, bearing the brunt of an ideologically driven agenda designed to run down the health service.
"Our health service workers have not taken this decision lightly. They have always ensured that the best possible care is given to the sick even under severe personal stress and and financial pressures.
"The present crisis within the health service has not been brought about by accident."Nine years of Tory / DUP austerity have been inspired by the worst excesses of Thatcherism; the consequence of which is now clearly focused upon running down public services, including the NHS.
"Less that two weeks ago the DUP supported the Tories in opposing protections for the NHS against further privatisation. Two years previously the DUP supported the Tories in blocking a pay rise for nurses.
"The neo-Thatcherite ideology of the Tories and DUP is aimed at driving the public towards private healthcare, by starving the NHS of funding and resources.
"I would appeal to all who believe in the fundamental right of free universal healthcare to show solidarity with our nurses and health providers in the coming weeks."
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on Minister for State Mary Mitchell O’Connor and DKIT management to engage with staff in the coming days in order to avoid next weeks strike action.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
“I hope Minister Mitchell O’Connor and management at DKIT can this week come to the table and discuss the future of DKIT with staff in an attempt to resolve this dispute.
“It is remarkable that 99% of staff have voted for industrial action, and Sinn Féin stands with them.
“This dispute seems to be one which is relatively easy to resolve, and centres around a lack of consultation, which is not much to ask.
“What is required is a genuine engagement between DKIT management and the representative body of the staff, who are entitled to have their concerns heard in a formal manner.
“I note the TUI have been quoted in today's Irish Times and said with regard to management, that staff have experienced ‘an increasingly autocratic and dysfunctional approach which has attempted to suppress open discussion and replace the traditional collaborative way of doing business with a culture of ill-conceived unilateral diktat’.
“It seems to me that we have reached an important juncture when it comes to the future of DKIT, and it is important that all steps are taken to ensure its future is as successful as it can be.”
Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has said Department of Health figures released to her show that there are nearly twice the children on hospital waiting lists to see a specialist than the official State figures.
Speaking this afternoon, Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The information regarding children’s waiting lists released to Sinn Féin by the Department of Health leaves the Minister for Health and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) with huge questions to answer over how they present the number of children on hospital waiting lists.
“The figures released to me have shown that there are actually 86,625 children waiting to see a specialist in hospitals across the State - almost double the supposed official figure of 46,000.
“There is a staggering 30,188 children waiting over a year to see a specialist with 18,728 of these waiting over 18 months.
“The release of this information justifies many campaigners, politicians, and journalists who questioned the official figures and said there were many children awaiting to see a specialist but were being counted on adult waiting lists.
“In particular, there are huge problems regarding the number of children waiting to see an ENT specialist with 2,650 children waiting in Waterford, 2,370 waiting in Tullamore, 1,440 waiting in Limerick, 1,224 in Letterkenny, 1,088 in Drogheda, and 1,061 in Galway.
"Beyond that, there are 998 children waiting for paediatrics in Drogheda and 1,170 waiting in Galway, in Cork 695 children are on waiting lists for paediatric cardiology, and in Limerick 647 children are waiting to see an ophthalmologist.
“The waiting lists for children across every hospital are huge and it is only now we are seeing their true extent."
Sinn Féin TD for Cork South-Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said the government is failing families and young people due to their inaction to tackle spiralling rents, and accused Fine Gael of "offered nothing to deal with the crisis already facing renters."
The comments come as the latest Daft.ie report today that shows for rents have risen for the 14th Quarter in a row.
Speaking at leaders' questions today where he raised the matter with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
“Taoiseach, in Cork the average rent is now €1,372. In Dublin, it is now over €2,000 per month.
“This crisis is crushing workers and families. €2,000 a month equates to in excess of €24,000 a year just to put a roof over your head, never mind the cost of food, or insurance or sending kids to school.
“It’s the same story in Galway, Limerick, Waterford, anywhere across the State – sky-high rents and no action.
“As shocking as these figures are, the reality is they reflect the hardship ordinary people are facing.
“They are the mother with two kids facing homelessness because her landlord has just hiked up her rent. They are the young person desperately rifling through Daft.ie to find something, anything even remotely affordable within commuting distance to work.
“They are the couple who have no chance of saving up for a deposit on their own home.
“A whole generation are being locked out of ever having a permanent home.
“The Taoiseach is making a lot of the fact that the rate of increase in rent is slowing. What he is saying to people is that you aren’t drowning as fast as you were last month, but you are still drowning and it’s going to get worse.
“Fine Gael and their Government partners in Fianna Fáil have done nothing to reduce the cost of rents or to protect tenants from further rent increases.
“What these figures show clearly, more than anything else, is that your policies are not working. Fine Gael are normalising this crisis and normalising homelessness.
“Social and affordable housing must be built to a scale radical enough to address the housing crisis.
“We welcome the u-turn from Fianna Fáil that they want to see a rent freeze, a position we have long advocated and included in our alternative budget this year.
"Sinn Féin want to give renters an emergency three-year rent freeze and provide a tax break equal to one month’s rent.
"These are two crucial measures that would make a real, substantial difference for those struggling with sky-high rents.”
Sinn Féin climate action spokesperson David Cullinane today slammed this and previous governments for their failure to undertake an environmental impact report for a windfarm in Galway, and for ignoring a European Court of Justice ruling for eleven years.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“It is shocking that the State is to be fined €5 million and €15,000 per day for failing to undertake an environmental impact survey on a Galway windfarm and refusing to follow a European Court of Justice ruling from 2008.
“Time and again we see government departments and semi-State bodies ignoring environmental procedures even in the face of court decisions.
“The ESB has leaked thousands of kilos of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere at Moneypoint since 2013, but failed to inform the Environmental Protection Agency.
“This is on top of the one million litres of oil from ESB heavy-duty electrical cables that leaked out from under the streets of Dublin.
“These leaks only came out due to a protected disclosure made by an individual.
“Serious questions need to be asked as to the final cost of the government’s folly.
“How much was spent on legal fees for the 2008 and 2019 cases?
“Why did successive government ministers refuse to follow EU law on these matters?
“What has been the environmental cost of these failures since 2008?
“I will be putting these questions to the Minister and seeking answers as a matter of urgency.
“It is time the Minister started taking environmental issues seriously, instead of paying lip service to a Just Transition as is currently the case with ESB workers in the midlands."
Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has called for a national emergency to be called over hospital overcrowding, as the number of patients on trolleys has already exceeded 100,000 for 2019.
Speaking this morning, Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The news from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) that already in 2019 over 100,000 patients have had to wait on trolleys in Emergency Departments forecasts worrying times ahead for patients and staff in the health service.
“Since the beginning of the year until today 101,064 patients have gone without a bed in an Irish hospital. Even today there are 607 patients waiting on trolleys.
“This is only the second time that annual figures have ever passed 100,000.
“Fine Gael have had 8 years to address this crisis, but they have only made it worse and the INMO figures for patients on trolleys back that up:
“The has been getting worse year on year for over eight years and no one in Fine Gael has been able to come up with a single solution.
“As with the housing crisis, the government think that their policies are working for the health service but, they are completely failing, and that failure is having a devastating impact on the lives of patients and staff.
“At this stage you would have to ask yourself if they even want to solve the crisis.
“I keep saying this and so long as there is a trolley crisis I will continue to say it – to tackle the trolley crisis you have to address the issues causing it and focus on addressing them through:
- increasing recruitment and retention of staff
- reopening closed beds
- delivering more step-down facilities
- increasing home help hours
- proper investment in primary and community care.”
Sinn Féin’s deputy Dáil leader Pearse Doherty TD has this morning published the clár for the 2019 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis taking place in Derry this weekend (15/16th November).
Speaking in Dublin this morning, Teachta Doherty said;
“This Ard Fheis comes at a critical time for our country.
“We are on a countdown to a general election in the 26 Counties, with four by-elections also happening on 29th November, as well as a Westminster election taking place in December; with Brexit looming shortly afterwards.
“The motions on the clár for the 2019 Ard Fheis reflect all of this.
“We will discuss and deliberate 166 motions across all policy areas and lay out solutions to the critical issues facing citizens across the island.
“These include planning for Irish reunification, the need to deliver a large-scale public housing programme and a range of measures to improve the financial situation of workers and families, from reducing sky-high rents and ending the insurance rip-off to major proposals in respect of reducing the cost of childcare.
“There will be a number of emergency motions in relation to Brexit and the Ard Fheis will also be addressed by the President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Gerry Murphy, as well as by representatives from Palestine, Cuba and the ANC.
“More than 2,000 Sinn Féin members have registered to attend over the course of the weekend and Mary Lou McDonald will deliver her Presidential address at 8.30pm on Saturday evening.
“The Ard Fheis comes at a time when the debate surrounding Irish unity is centre stage and, as the only party seriously committed to Irish reunification, planning for unity will feature prominently over the course of the weekend.
“There will be a fringe meeting on Saturday afternoon that will discuss the economic merits of a United Ireland with Professor of Economic Research at the ESRI, Seamus McGuinness, and we will publish a paper that outlines the facts surrounding the British subvention to the north and challenges some of the myths that are regularly peddled in that regard.
“I look forward to welcoming people to the North West for the 2019 Ard Fheis.”
Carthy calls on Minister Creed to intervene in Beef Agreement delays or risk new protests
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has criticised Minister Michael Creed for his failure to ensure progress is made in the implementation of the Irish beef Sector Agreement. Carthy this week called on the Minister engage in talks with the Beef Task Force members to resolve the outstanding issues, clearing the way for a new meeting.
Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said:
“The Agreement was signed on the 15th of September and the farming community cautiously welcomed it. However, any initial optimism has been quashed by a lack of implementation of a number of points of the agreement.
“Issues such as penalties and arbitrary quality rules have undermined farmers margins and have resulted in family farmers often selling to factories at a loss. The work of the Beef Task Force is core to addressing the imbalances in the sector that has put thousands of Irish farmers in this precarious position.
“The prospect of progress in these areas has been damaged by the refusal of APB associated companies to lift injunctions against some farmers who participated in protests. It is shameful that C&D continues to pursue legal action instead of working to rebuild the trust with farmers.
“The remaining injunctions have delayed the reconvening of the Beef Task Force and paralysed implementation of the Beef Agreement; they must be lifted immediately and MII cannot ignore the fact that they are implicated in the threats.
“It is imperative that Minister Creed moves now to break the deadlock, as Minister he is a guarantor of the Agreement.
“If this agreement is allowed to collapse, due to a bad faith by the factories and Government inaction, we will see the prospect of new picket lines emerging. Words of condemnation from the Minister at that point will count for little if he continues to sit on his hands during this crucial period.
“We in Sinn Féin continue to support our family farmers in their quest for fair prices and fair conditions. We want to see a sustainable solution reached and implemented. But, the Government’s inept approach to date has jeopardised the future of family farms and the rural communities that depend on them and is opening up the vista of a new series of protests.”
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Imelda Munster has welcomed the seizure of drugs, believed to be cocaine worth an estimated value of €1.4million, in Drogheda, Co. Louth, on Monday.
The seizure occurred when Gardaí stopped a vehicle at the Donore Road Industrial Estate, and a man has been arrested.
Deputy Munster said:
“The Gardaí have been working hard to control the influx of drugs into the area, and the related gang violence. This week’s seizure shows the importance of ensuring that the Gardaí have the resources to keep up this work to root this feud and the scourge of drugs out of Drogheda.
“I met with senior Gardaí in Drogheda on Monday, and they are making inroads. However, without the continuation of the funding they have received in recent times, all this work will have been for nothing.
“Fine Gael and their government partners have a responsibility to make sure the Gardaí can do their jobs. It’s not good enough that the Gardaí’s funding should run out, as it did last week, leaving them unsure as to whether they will be able to continue fighting the drug gangs.
“Fine Gael call themselves the party of law and order, but the violence, fear and crime in Drogheda, east Meath and other areas along the border tells a different story.
“There’s still a mountain to climb. The feud is still live. As we saw last week with the murder in Bettystown, it could escalate at any moment.
“The continuation of funding is vital in the fight against these thugs. I have raised this with the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice and the Gardaí, to impress upon them the importance of ensuring that the Gardaí have the resources they need to stamp out this feud and ensure that the people of Louth and Meath can feel safe in their communities.”
Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon has said the Executive Office must ensure that the needs of victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse are met.
Speaking after victims met with the Head of the Civil Service, the Mid Ulster MLA said:
“Last week it was confirmed that the Executive Office have the power to provide compensation to victims of historical institutional abuse.
“These victims have waited too long for justice and redress for an awful wrongdoing.
“It’s vital that they face no more delays – after many years of powerful campaigning and false dawns, the Executive Office must ensure that their needs are met.
P“Compensation for these victims should be processed as soon as possible.”
Commenting on the decision by the largest health workers’ union UNISON to take industrial action Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill said today.
“The decision by UNISON to take industrial and strike action comes only days after the Royal College of Nurses took the unprecedented step of voting for industrial action to improve safety in health and social care and for better pay and conditions.
“Health and Social Care staff are the service’s greatest asset. However, they are underpaid and undervalued.
“Years of Tory austerity cuts to frontline public services, supported by the DUP, and the cap on public sector pay has our health service on its knees.
“Waiting lists and waiting times for patients are at crisis levels. The safety of staff and patients is being compromised as a result of staff shortages which have been exacerbated by pay issues affecting recruitment and retention of staff.
“Sinn Féin has pledged its support for the workers’ efforts to improve safety and their pay and working conditions.
“The Department of Health needs to immediately begin to meaningfully engage with the workers and their unions and we need to see an end to the disastrous DUP/Tory austerity cuts to our public services.”
Press Notice: Carthy to host Brexit discussion panel in Meath tonight
Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, will host an important public meeting regarding the latest developments on Brexit their implications for communities in the Meath area. The event takes place, tonight, Monday the 11th of November at 7.30pm in Kells.
“We’re at a critical juncture in the Brexit process with Westminster elections only a month away” Carthy said: “Brexit will have huge socio-economic and political implications for our country and the border region in particular. Many businesses in county Meath who trade across the border or in the UK have already seen business slow and in some cases they’ve had to downsize and lay people off. The continued uncertainty has devastated many SMEs in the region. Those that stand to be further affected by Brexit have several queries and concerns. This meeting is organised so as to answer those questions. We will also discuss what recent developments will mean for the big constitutional conversation towards Irish Unity.”
The event hosted by the Midlands Northwest MEP Matt Carthy will include a keynote address by Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Fein Vice-President) and will also see contributions from Damian McGenity (Border Communities Against Brexit), commentator Andreé Murphy and Gary O’Meara CEO of Meath Enterprise. Meath Sinn Féin Councillors Darren O’Rourke and Johnny Guirke will complete the panel.
Ahead of the public meeting, Cllr. Darren O’Rourke said “We’ve already witnessed how Brexit uncertainty is affecting business in Co. Meath. Events like this are vital in helping us all become more prepared for all possible Brexit outcomes”
“Brexit: What does it mean for Co. Meath?” takes place this Monday evening the 11th of November at 7.30pm in the Headfort Arms Hotel, Kells, Co. Meath. All are welcome. ENDS
The son of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane was in Dundalk on Saturday to launch a booklet written by Louth TD Gerry Adams about the lawyer.
John Finucane, who is mayor of Belfast, took time out from canvassing in the Westminster election, to join Mr Adams at the County Library in Dundalk for the event, which was chaired by Cllr. Ruairí Ó Murchú.
The booklet includes speeches from John Finucane and his sister, Katherine, along with a contribution from Mr Adams, and an introduction by Joe Austin, which were part of an event in Belfast marking the 30th anniversary of the murder, marked earlier this year.
It sets out in detail the political context of Pat Finucane’s murder, the role of the RUC and RUC Special Branch, the British Army’s Force Reconnaissance Unit and British agents operating within the unionist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association.
The Sinn Féin TD, who compiled ‘Pat Finucane 30th Anniversary – A Community Reflects’, told the large audience at the library about how the solicitor represented hunger striker Bobby Sands and how the Finucane family’s quest for justice is now entering its fourth decade.
John, who is running in North Belfast in the upcoming British general election, spoke powerfully about how his father was murdered while the family sat eating their dinner at their kitchen table on February 12 1989.
He praised his mother, Geraldine, who was also shot during the attack, for her tenacity in raising three children and leading the family’s campaign for justice. John gave an outline of the path the family’s quest for answers has taken and how it continues.
Mr Finucane and Mr Adams spent almost an hour signing copies of the booklet for audience members.