Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has welcomed today’s Dáil discussion on the report agreed by the cross-party Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Irish language, Gaeltacht and Irish-Speaking Community on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada (CETA).
The Committee, including government TDs and Senators, agreed 10 recommendations as part of their 40-page report, having spent the best part of two years commissioning and analysing research on the potential impacts of CETA on the Irish language and the Gaeltacht, with a focus both on language rights under the treaty and on how language protections and Gaeltacht subsidies could be negatively affected by investor protections.
Following the report’s publication in February, the Dáil has set aside time to discuss it today.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh, who chairs the Committee, said:
“This is a significant report, not least because it is the first time a cross-party committee has recommended that CETA should not be ratified by the government without a referendum. This is also notable as the first time an Oireachtas Committee has commented on CETA since leading members of our judiciary referred to the agreement as neither constitutional nor democratic when Costello v Government of Ireland came before the Supreme Court last year.
“Of particular concern to this Committee were the ways in which the legal framework and investor protections set to be established under CETA would undermine the status of Irish in the courts, thereby affecting the legal rights of Irish speakers, while also potentially significantly stifling the ability of the government to protect and promote the Irish language through ambitious policy changes or Gaeltacht subventions.
“Even within the small field of Irish language and Gaeltacht policy, the impact of such constraints could have far-reaching consequences.
“Examples of policies that could be deemed to threaten profits or competitiveness for Canadian investors include introducing bilingual packaging in shops or percentage requirements for Irish language content on audiovisual platforms or music on radio, any obligations on private companies to serve Gaeltacht communities through Irish, or Údarás na Gaeltachta deciding to support offshore renewable energy or fisheries.
“At its root, this means that CETA could block the capacity of a future government to support the Gaeltacht or promote Irish, in particular in the business world.
“The Committee has also drawn attention to the failure of the European Union and the Irish government to protect our cultural industries and creative talent on an even playing field with their Canadian counterparts. Answers are needed on this.
“I hope government will now at last pay heed to the warnings coming from their own party colleagues and ensure a referendum is held before any ratification, and I ask other Committees to consider the potential impact CETA could have on their areas of remit.
“Clearly, given the gravity of what the Supreme Court judges had to say, this cannot be left to government alone.”
Éilíonn Coiste traspháirtí Oireachtais go gcuirfear CETA chuig reifreann – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD
D’fháiltigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD de chuid Shinn Féin roimh an plé sa Dáil inniu ar thuarascáil a d’aontaigh an Comhchoiste traspháirtí an Oireachtais don Ghaeilge, don Ghaeltacht agus do Phobal Labhartha na Gaeilge ar an gComhaontas Cuimsitheach Eacnamaíoch agus Trádála idir an Aontas Eorpach agus Ceanada (CETA).
D’aontaigh an Coiste, Teachtaí Dála agus Seanadóirí Rialtais san áireamh, 10 moltaí a chur chun cinn mar chuid den tuarascáil 40 leathanach, tar éis dóibh beagnach dhá bhliana a chaitheamh ag coimisiúnú agus ag scrúdú taighde ar impleachtaí féadartha CETA ar an nGaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht, agus fócas ar leith ar chearta teanga faoin gComhaontas agus ar conas a bhféadfadh drochthionchar a bheith ag cosaintí infheisteora ar chosaintí teanga agus fhordheontais Gaeltachta.
Tar éis don tuarascáil a bheith foilsithe i mí Feabhra, tá am curtha ar leataobh ag an Dáil inniu chun é a phlé.
Dúirt an Teachta Ó Snodaigh, atá ina Chathaoirleach ar an gCoiste:
“Tuarascáil suntasach is ea seo, go háirithe toisc gurb é an chéad uair inar aontaigh coiste traspháirtí nár chóir don rialtas CETA a dhaingniú gan reifreann. Díol spéise atá ann freisin toisc gurb é an chéad uair a rinne Coiste Oireachtais trácht ar CETA ó rinne breithiúna sinsearacha sa Stát seo cur síos ar an gComhaontas mar rud nach bhfuil bunreachtúil nó daonlathach nuair a tháinig Costello v Rialtas na hÉireann ós comhair an Chúirt Uachtarach anuraidh.
“Ábhar imní a chur as don Choiste seo go háirithe ná na bealaí ina ndéanfadh creatlach dlíthiúil agus cosaintí infheisteora atá le bunú faoi CETA creimeadh ar stádas na Gaeilge sna cúirteanna, rud a bheadh tionchar aige ar chearta dlíthiúla Gaeilgeoirí, agus an seans freisin go gcuirfeadh siad srian suntasach ar chumas an rialtais an Ghaeilge a chaomhnú agus a chur chun cinn trí athruithe polasaí uailmhianacha nó fordheontais Gaeltachta amach anseo.
“Fiú lasmuigh d’éarnáil bheag an pholasaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta, d’fhéadfadh srianta mar seo cúrsaí a athrú ó bhonn.
“Samplaí de pholasaithe a d’fhéadfadh a shonrú mar baol ag déanamh bagairt ar bhrabús nó iomaíochas infheisteoirí ó Cheanada ná iarrachtaí chun pacáistiú dhátheangach a thabhairt isteach i siopaí nó céatadáin riachtanach do nithe trí Ghaeilge ar árdáin closamhairc nó ceol ar an raidió, aon dualgais a chur ar chomhlachtaí príobháideacha chun freastal ar phobail Gaeltachta trí Ghaeilge, nó dá nglacfadh Údarás na Gaeltachta cinneadh tacú le fuinneamh inathnuaite amach ón gcósta nó in iascaireacht.
“Go bunúsach, ciallaíonn seo go bhféadfadh le CETA cumas rialtas amach anseo tacú leis an nGaeltacht nó an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn a shrianú, go háirithe i saol an ghnó.
“Tarraingníonn an Coiste aird freisin ar theipeadh an Aontas Eorpach agus rialtas na hÉireann tacú lenár gcuid tionscal cultúir agus ár gcruthaitheoirí ar chomhchéim lena gcomhghleacaithe i gCeanada. Teastaíonn freagraí maidir le seo.
“Tá súil agam go dtabharfaidh an rialtas cluas éisteachta faoi dheireadh don rabhadh atá ag teacht óna gcomhghleacaithe rialtais féin anois agus reifreann a chinntiú sula ndéanfar CETA a dhaingniú, agus fiafraím ar Choistí eile féachaint ar thionchar féadartha CETA ar na réimsí faoina gcúram.
“Is léir, toisc na buairt léirithe ag bhreithimh na Cúirte Uachtaracha, nach féidir é seo a fhágáil faoin rialtas ann féin.”
Is féidir an tuarascáil iomlán a léamh ag an nasc seo (The full report in Irish can be read at this link): https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/committee/dail/33/comhchoiste_na_gaeilge_na_gaeltachta_agus_phobal_labhartha_na_gaeilge/reports/2023/2023-02-22_tuarascail-ar-an-gcomhaontas-cuimsitheach-eacnamaioch-agus-tradala-ccet_en.pdf
Teachtaí Darren O’Rourke, Réada Cronin and Seanadóir Lynn Boylan have called on the Government to support Sinn Féin’s Electricity Regulation (Amendment) (Standing Charges) Bill 2023 which was introduced to the Dáil today. This legislation would address the fact that the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is completely powerless to prevent energy companies from using standing charges as a means of increasing their profit.
The CRU has repeatedly confirmed that they lack the legislative remit to regulate standing charges. In one of a package of measures to address Ireland's rip off energy prices, Sinn Féin has proposed to remedy this, instilling some much-needed order and fairness into the market.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Teachta O’Rourke, said:
“The last 18 months have put into sharp focus just how essential it is that we have a regulatory body that has the ability to effectively monitor and supervise the energy market. Instead what we have is absolute chaos. While workers and families continue to be crippled by sky high energy prices, energy companies have seemingly free rein to do as they please.
“Most people were shocked to learn that standing charges are not regulated. As ridiculous as this seems, it does help to explain why some energy companies were free to increase their standing charges by €300 last year. One supplier was even charging up to €700 per year in standard changes alone; that is €700 before you even switch on a light!
“And if that wasn’t bad enough, we know that despite the fact that wholesale gas and energy prices have dropped significantly since their peak last year, absolutely zero effort has been made to pass this on to consumers.
“Energy companies tell us this is because of their ‘hedging’ strategies. However the reality is that oversight and regulation of these practices is seriously deficient.
“And the only tool the CRU has to address in their arsenal? Mere encouragement!
“Well that is not good enough. Not good enough for the thousands of small businesses at risk of closing down, nor for the families and workers who cannot afford to make ends meet, nor for the hundreds of thousands of people living in energy poverty."
Teachta Cronin said:
“This situation is not sustainable. That is why Sinn Féin is calling on the Government to urgently address it by supporting this Bill.
“It would provide a legislative basis for the CRU not only to effectively monitor standing changes and to investigate suspected instances of their use to increase profits but also the power to require suppliers with excessive rates to decrease them to cover their fixed costs only. Finally this Bill would also require utility companies to seek prior approval from the CRU for any proposed increase in the rate of their standing charge.
“This Bill is only one in a host of measures Sinn Féin has proposed to address this disorder and to rein-in energy companies. Last week, Sinn Féin introduced a Private Members Bill that, alongside the regulation of standing charges, would strengthen the mandate of the CRU to evaluate hedging practices, but it would also provide for the necessary resourcing and staffing to carry out these functions."
Senator Lynn Boylan said:
“Sinn Féin has also called for the introduction of price caps on energy Bills and furthermore for a strengthening of the Government’s pathetic windfall tax that fails to address the frankly obscene profits earned last summer.
“There are so many tools at the Government's disposal but they remain paralysed, preferring instead to prioritise the profits of energy companies over people.
“It’s high-time that the Government stopped acting as mere commentators and we urge them to support Sinn Féin’s Bill.”The legislation is available to view here
Sinn Féin TD John Brady will advance his Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill to second stage in the Dáil on Tuesday.
If passed, it would compel the Irish Strategic Investment Fund to divest shareholdings in companies listed on a UN database of businesses operating within illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.
It follows Sinn Féin’s 2021 motion when the Dáil became the first parliament in the EU to recognise Israel’s illegal occupation as an annexation, and therefore a war crime.
This Monday marks the 75th anniversary of Nakba - meaning 'catastrophe' in Arabic - when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine war.
Nakba Day commemorates these traumatic events, and raises awareness of the current plight facin Palestinian refugees and their families. The symbolism of passing this legislation the day after the 75th anniversary would send a real message of Ireland’s commitment to Palestinian human rights.
Teachta Brady said:
“The purpose of the Bill, to be debated in the Dáil the day after the 75th anniversary of Nakba, is to mandate the Irish Strategic Investment Fund to divest itself of all assets, and to prohibit future investments in any companies, included on the UN Database of companies that operate within the illegal Israeli settlements.
“The Irish Strategic Investment Fund, managed by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), has invested Irish taxpayers’ money in nine of the 112 companies contained in the UN Database identified as operating in illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, in breach of international law.
“The Irish Strategic Investment Fund's investments include four Israeli banks instrumental in facilitating the ongoing campaign of annexation through the provision of funding and loans, and the operation of ATMs in illegal settlements. These banks are partners in settlement expansion, and are aiding and abetting war crimes.
“By investing Irish taxpayers’ money in such companies, the government has made Irish people stakeholders in war crimes in the ongoing illegal annexation of Palestinian territories.
“Israeli settlements, their maintenance and expansion, are illegal under international law and amount to war crimes.
“They have resulted in countless human rights violations against Palestinians, including unlawful demolitions of homes and infrastructure, destruction of agricultural land, forced displacement, unlawful killings and more.
“Israeli, European, and international business enterprises operating with, or providing services to, Israeli settlements play a critical role in facilitating the sustainability and growth of settlements.
“Businesses directly or indirectly involved in the Israeli settlement enterprise run a substantial risk of involvement in grave violations of international humanitarian law.
“While Ireland has been critical of ongoing expansion of illegal settlements, Irish taxpayers have been made shareholders in the actions that we, as legislators, across all parties and none, in the Dáil unanimously decreed as illegal.
“This legislation would align Ireland’s strategic investments with its political policies and, crucially, embed them within international law.
“It is imperative that the Dáil sends a message to other member states in the EU, and the wider world, that we are prepared to correct this situation and end any state association with companies on the UN database that have broken international law.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD, has welcomed the publication of the Double Deficit report by Alone and Threshold on the experiences of older and ageing people in the private rental sector.
The Dublin Mid-West TD has urged government to actively consider the report’s recommendations.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“A growing number of older people are living in the private rental sector. The number of people over the age of 60 on social housing waiting lists is also growing.
“There are also a growing number of people not eligible for social housing supports but struggling with high rents and tenancy insecurity in the rental market.
“Homelessness among the over-65s has also increased dramatically in recent years. Since Darragh O’Brien has been Minister for Housing, there has been a 43% increase in the number of older people in emergency accommodation.
“Today's report from Alone and Threshold on the experiences of older and ageing people in the private rental sector is both welcome and important. It highlights the lived reality and increased insecurity for many older people in the private rental sector.
“Sinn Féin supports their recommendations regarding social and affordable housing, adaptation grants and security of tenure, and we urge government to actively consider these proposals.
“For too long, successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led governments have-over relied on the private rental sector to meet social and affordable housing need. The result has been insecurity and high costs for too many older people and scandalously rising levels of homelessness.
“The solution is to dramatically increase the delivery of social and affordable housing and to ensure an adequate portion of this housing meets the needs of older people for social housing, affordable rental housing and appropriate rightsizing housing options.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport, Chris Andrews TD, has called on the GAA to "remove the paywall for high profile matches, and keep inclusion at its core".
Teachta Andrews said:
"The GAA, since its formation, has always placed community at its core. They are central to almost every community across Ireland.
"Our native games are among the best in the world, and they deserve as wide of an audience as possible. They should not be hidden behind a pay wall.
"The GAA has kept some of the best hurling so far this year hidden behind a paywall and has also removed cash turnstiles at stadiums.
"These measures have been accurately described as 'invisible barriers' and are particularly harsh on older GAA supporters.
"Ease of access to watch our native sports and inclusion should be to the core of the GAA.
"We don’t want to see GAA drifting into a corporate profit driven model of operation.
"I call on the GAA to listen to the wider GAA community and to start removing these paywalls.
"I’ve requested the GAA and RTÉ appear before the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media to address the issues being encountered as a result of these policies."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Louise O’Reilly TD, has welcomed the commitment given to her by the Minister that financial supports for businesses using Liquefied Petroleum Gas and kerosene oil will be introduced in the coming weeks.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“For many months Sinn Féin have been lobbying for supports for businesses who use Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and kerosene oil to meet their energy needs.
“Businesses with metered gas and electricity were able to make use of the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS) scheme to help with these bills, however, if a business relied on LPG or oil instead of gas, they were excluded from part of the scheme.
“Many businesses, especially those in rural Ireland rely on either LPG or oil to meet some of their energy needs, and this fault with the scheme puts them at a significant disadvantage.
“Sinn Féin first raised this matter last year and called on the government to support rural businesses who were left at a disadvantaged due to the exclusion of some of their energy costs from the TBESS scheme.
“In February, after months of lobbying, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment gave me an initial commitment that he would investigate how SMEs and microbusinesses who rely on kerosene oil and LPG for energy could be supported.
“This morning, in front of the Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Committee, Minister Simon Coveney and gave me a firm commitment that a scheme would be established in the coming weeks to give financial support to SMEs who rely on kerosene oil and LPG for their energy needs. He also stated that the scheme would be backdated for firms.
“While this is long overdue, it is brilliant news for SMEs and microbusiness across rural Ireland and should be roundly welcomed.”
The campaign to take Dublin’s waste collection service back into public ownership takes a major step forward this afternoon when campaigners take their demands to TDs and Senators in Leinster House.
Speaking ahead of the Oireachtas briefing, organised by Sinn Féin, Forsa and Siptu, Cllr Daithí Doolan, chair of Dublin City Council’s Remunicipalisation Working Group, said:
“This is a significant step in our campaign. Our coalition of political parties and trade unions are bringing our demands to the Dáil. Members of the Oireachtas will be left in no doubt what needs to be done to bring the bin collection back into public ownership where it belongs.
”The recent report by the Institute of Public Administration highlighted that Dublin is the wild west of waste collection services in Europe. The bin companies no longer serve the interest of householders or the environment. This cannot be allowed to continue. The public deserves better than this.
“Today’s event is significant. It is being organised by Sinn Féin, Forsa and SIPTU. Ultimately taking the bin service back into public ownership will require the Government introducing legislation to allow Dublin City Council take back the service. We will be asking TDs from all political parties and Senators to support introducing this legislation as soon as possible.
“Across Europe, the momentum is behind taking local services back under the control of local authorities. Today is an opportunity to become part of that change and to take the bin service back into public ownership.
“This will be a benefit to householders struggling with the cost of living crisis and will also benefit tackling climate change.”
Speaking following the decision of the PPS not to prosecute a former RUC member in relation to the killing of Colum Marks in 1991, Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said he will co to it to support the family’s campaign for truth.
The South Down MP said:
“This has been a long and emotional journey for the family of Colum Marks, who was unarmed when shot dead by the RUC, in their campaign for truth and justice.
“They have campaigned with strength, dignity and determination.
“The family remains committed to finding out the full facts of what happened to Colum Marks and following today’s decision, will now consider all options available to them.
“Sinn Féin will continue to support the Marks family in their pursuit of truth.
“They are entitled to justice and a proper investigation and they may now pursue a review of the PPS’ decision.”
A recent HIQA report of a residential centre for children with disabilities found that two residents, who both required a wheelchair, had been confined to the first floor of the centre for 25 days due to a broken lift.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Disability and Carers Pauline Tully, in reaction to the report, stated that the treatment of the children was ‘disturbing and unacceptable’ and called for strong enforcement action for centres which have been found not to be in compliance with their statutory obligations.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said:
“The recent HIQA report which found that a residential centre in Monaghan had left two children confined to the first floor of the centre for 25 days in January is very disturbing and is unacceptable.
“The two children in question require a wheelchair and were unable to access the ground floor due to a broken lift.
“This meant that neither of the children had been able to attend school, and one had missed a necessary appointment.
“The unannounced inspection by HIQA was carried out on the 25th of January and the report was published on the 8th of May.
“This was not the first time such an incident had occurred at this centre as the report points out that the lift had been broken for 34 days from July into August 2022, again leaving the residents confined to the first floor.
“Neither of these incidents were reported by the provider to HIQA, as they are obliged to by law.
“The report also found that the governance and management arrangements were ineffective and that while concerns were raised by the person in charge of the centre it also states that there were delays in this information reaching senior management levels.
“This failure of senior management completely disregards the human rights of the residents. It in no way complies with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and is in no way acceptable.
“In its compliance plan, included as an appendix to the report, the service provider sets out the ways in which it has, or intends to, come into compliance with Regulations.
“This report shows the importance of HIQA carrying out unannounced inspections.
“In response to a parliamentary question I raised with the Minister for Health it stated that in 2021 out of 1,220 inspections of centres for people with disabilities carried out by HIQA only 384, less than a third, were unannounced.
“Unannounced inspections of disability centres are vital to ensuring that disability providers are complying with the regulations, treating residents with the dignity and respect they deserve, and ensuring the rights of disabled people are protected.”
Sinn Féin MLA Deirdre Hargey has said cruel Tory budget cuts imposed on local communities are ‘immoral and indefensible’.
Responding to proposed Budget cuts announced by the Department for Communities today, the party’s communities spokesperson said:
“Cuts to much-needed community services are a direct result of the punishment budget forced upon the department by the Tories in London.
“Local communities are the latest to be hit by the Tory axe and the damaging budget being imposed on the Department for Communities from London.
“These cuts are immoral and indefensible and will be felt by everyone in all communities across the north, particularly those on the lowest income.
“One party’s refusal to form an Executive is adding to the pain and suffering of communities who are crying out for support.
“We need the Assembly and Executive restored now and parties working together to invest in local communities and protect services from these savage cuts. People cannot wait any longer.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Louise O’Reilly TD today called for additional staff and resources to be provided to the Commission to tackle breaches of employment law.
The call comes following the publication of the Workplace Relations Commission annual report which showed that WRC inspectors recovered €1.4m for workers in unpaid wages, a 45 per cent increase on last year.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Despite being underfunded and under-resourced, the WRC does fantastic work on behalf of workers across this state.
“In spite of the challenges faced by underfunding and an expanded workforce to support, the WRC carried out 5,820 inspections in 2022 and from these, 5,700 specific contraventions of legislation were detected.
“One of the standout results of these investigations was the recovery of €1.4 million in withheld, or stolen, wages from workers.
“Indeed, a broader analysis of WRC annual reports and Parliamentary Question data from the Department of Enterprise reveals that since 2011 over €20 million in withheld wages were returned to workers following WRC investigations.
“This data in the WRC annual report lifts the lid on a rampant and disgusting practice. Any employer who deliberately withholds wages from a worker, or deliberately under pays a worker, should be named, shamed, and punished.
“Unfortunately, this practice has been rampant across workplaces for decades, and it begs the question if the punishment for such breaches of employment law is fit for practice.
“The withholding of wages is particularly rampant in sectors where women and migrant workers are highly employed – the food and drink and retail sectors.
“Given the WRC is understaffed and underfunded, it is a logical assumption that with more resources to conduct investigations the figure for withheld wages would be much higher.
“The only way to combat this unscrupulous practice is to empower and fund the WRC to carry out a greater number of investigations across the whole economy.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate and Energy, Darren O'Rourke TD, has criticised the government for failing to ensure that the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) can protect workers and families from the whims of energy companies, leaving them exposed to sky-high gas and electricity bills.
Commenting on the CRU’s address to the Oireachtas Environment and Climate Action Committee today, the Meath East TD said it was clear that, without a strengthening of the CRU’s mandate, as well as an increase in staffing and resources, profit would continue to take precedence over people in the energy market.
Teachta O’Rourke said:
“The figures are stark. Ireland has some of the highest energy prices in Europe and workers and families are crippled by the strain. Nearly one in four gas customers are in arrears, with the figure standing at 160,000 - up 20,600 when compared to last year. It is really no surprise energy poverty remains high.
“We know that wholesale prices have fallen significantly, and yet energy companies have failed to pass these reductions on to the consumer. Energy companies tell us this is the result of ‘hedging’ but the reality is that there is seriously insufficient oversight and regulation of these practices.
“There is very real concern that energy companies are carrying out rampant profiteering and yet the CRU remains relatively powerless to get to grips with this situation. They say that they are ‘very concerned’ about the impact these sky-high prices are having on households and businesses, yet all they can do to get to grips with the situation is to ‘encourage’ energy companies to pass reductions on to consumers.
“Mere encouragement is not good enough. The last 18 months have put into sharp focus just how essential it is that we have a regulatory body that has the regulatory teeth to effectively monitor and supervise the energy market.
“The CRU’s shortcomings become even more obvious when we consider they do not even have the mandate to regulate standing charges, meaning that energy companies are free to use them to increase their profits. Some energy companies have increased their standing charges by €300 last year. These are massive costs before people even switch on a light.
“If all of this wasn’t bad enough, the CRU is massively under-resourced to carry out the minimal regulatory functions it is mandated to. This further exacerbates the risks posed to workers, families and businesses.
“Urgent action is clearly required to get a handle on this unsustainable situation. Sinn Féin has proposed a number of policies to increase the power and resourcing of the CRU in order to hold energy companies to account.
“Firstly, the Electricity Regulation (Amendment) (Standing Charges) Bill 2023 would give the CRU the power to regulate standing charges.
“Secondly, we proposed last week to increase the resourcing and mandate of the CRU in order to oversee ‘hedging’ activities and ensure wholesale price reductions are passed onto the consumer.
“It is high-time the government stopped acting as commentators, started doing their job and ensured that the CRU is mandated and equipped to effectively regulate the energy market.”
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has said the local council elections are an opportunity to endorse positive leadership and to endorse local councillors who will work for all.
Speaking at the launch of the party’s manifesto for the local council elections, Mary Lou McDonald said:
“This is a time for hope, for positivity and for optimism. Real change is happening before our eyes. A generation moving forward to build a new and better future for all. A new Ireland, a United Ireland delivering for every person, for every family, for every community.
“People want politics to work for them and their families. They want investment in a health system that works, the very best childcare and education and strong local services. They want economic opportunities realised so that our young people can have a good future.
“They want the Executive working, they want government for all and they want Michelle O’ Neill to lead the Executive as First Minister working for all, delivering for all.
“We are now twelve months on from the Assembly election with one party continuing to block a new Executive being formed while Tory austerity is devastating public services and progress is stalled.
“This puts an even greater importance on the council election on 18th May.
“It is an opportunity to endorse positive leadership at a time when we need it most and to work together to deliver real change.
“It is an opportunity to support a party that is ready to get the Assembly and Executive up and running.
“It is an opportunity to elect people rooted in the community to represent local needs, deliver strong local services and get the job done.
“Sinn Féin’s goal of becoming the largest party in local government for the first time is not about seats in councils, it’s about what you do when you have that strength.
“It’s time to work together. It is time to build a better future for all.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin has TD, said that Sinn Féin fully supports Focus Irelands Best Interests of the Child Bill campaign being launched today.
The legislation published by Focus Ireland this morning places an obligation on Local Authorities to take the “Best Interests of the Child“ into account when working with families who present as homeless.
The campaign comes at a time when there are almost 3,500 children in emergency accommodation.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“The number of children living in Department of Housing-funded emergency accommodation has increased by over 60% since this government came into office. Many of these children are spending more than two years in unsuitable and inappropriate emergency accommodation.
“The emotional and physical impact on children arising from even short stays in emergency accommodation can be significant. While much good prevention work takes place, including Local Authorities and Voluntary Sector Homeless Services, too often families with children are failed by the system.
“Councils are over stretched as numbers of people experiencing homelessness continue to rise. Too much is left to families to source alternative accommodation and, in some cases, to source alternative emergency accommodation.
“We need a system that focuses more on prevention, early intervention and in particular placing the best interests of the child at the centre of any response to homelessness or risk of homelessness.
“Sinn Féin strongly supports the Focus Ireland Bill and will work with the charity and other parties in the Dáil to get this into law as soon as possible.''
MEP MacManus Visits Mullingar Community College For Europe Day Celebrations
Responding to today’s report that the Irish government has had a secret arrangement that provided for the British RAF to operate within Irish airspace, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Matt Carthy TD, said that such a deal would serve to further expose the abysmal failure of successive governments to adequate invest in our Defence Forces.
Teachta Carthy said:
“The report of a secret arrangement that provided for the British RAF to operate within Irish airspace simply further exposes the abysmal failure of successive Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments to invest in our Defence Forces and to ensure that, as an independent, neutral state, we can monitor and defend our airspace and our seas.
“I have sought a briefing from the Department of Defence on this matter, so as to clarify the legal and Constitutional matters that have arisen from today’s report.
“However, I would also urge the Tánaiste to make a public statement on the matter as a matter of urgency. This is a matter of considerable public interest and full disclosure of any arrangements with foreign governments in respect of Irish Defence capacity is required.”
Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has said the predicted shortfall in places for children with special educational needs is ‘deeply concerning’ and another consequence of immoral Tory budget cuts.
The party’s education spokesperson said:
“It’s deeply concerning that special schools across the north are set to face a significant shortfall in pupil places in September.
“Children with special educational needs require the highest level of support in our schools to ensure they have the best start in life.
“This is yet another consequence of immoral and indefensible Tory cuts that is decimating our public services and punishing vulnerable children.
“It is also a consequence of one party’s refusal to form an Executive that is preventing any steps being taken to support public services from the irreparable damage being inflicted on us from savage Tory policies.
“We need the Executive restored now and all parties working together around the table to offset the harm being done by the Tory axe to health, education and other public services.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Louise O’Reilly TD, has accused the government of being out of touch with workers and families struggling with the escalating cost of living.
Deputy O’Reilly was speaking as she launched her party’s motion on this issue, to be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday, which calls on government to take action on sky-high food and grocery bills.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The burden that the escalating cost of living is placing on workers and families is completely unsustainable.
“This pressure has been exacerbated by the failure of the Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath, and Minister for Public Expenditure, Paschal Donohoe, to intervene to reduce energy bills or provide mortgage relief from ever-rising interest rates.
“Now these challenges are being compounded by soaring grocery and food bills, which have increased by almost 17 per cent over the past year.
“Inflation in Irish supermarkets is at the highest level ever recorded by retail analysts Kantar across the past 12 months, with the 12-week period to April 16th alone showing the rate of food inflation at 16.6%.
“That means average annual grocery bills would rise by approximately €1,200 if consumers maintain the same shopping habits, and government inaction has led to a growing reliance on food banks.
“The rate increases announced by government in Budget 2023 to social welfare recipients and pensioners significantly fell far short of what was required to cope with inflation, despite proposals brought forward by Sinn Féin and others who recognised the need for greater weekly social welfare increases.
“The escalating costs now facing households across the state is completely unsustainable and something has to give. That requires government intervention.
"But we have seen no sense of the urgency required by government to deal with any of these issues.
“This week, Sinn Féin is calling on government to do all in its power to ensure savings made by supermarkets and large food retailers in respect to falling input costs are passed on to consumers through lower grocery prices.
“Government must also instruct the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to investigate possible price-gouging in the retail food and grocery sector.
“They must also further increase weekly social welfare and pension rates to stem the flow of families and pensioners into food poverty.
“In addition, we are calling on government to amend the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Bill 2022 to give the proposed Agri-Food Regulator powers to investigate anti-competitive practices in the agri-food supply chain.
“The government cannot continue their hands-off approach while workers and families suffer.”
Sinn Féin's motion can be read here.
Sinn Fein spokesperson on Communications and Transport Martin Kenny TD has called on the state to clarify its position on the leased land in Dublin Port. The land, expected to be used for Brexit-related cargo checks by Revenue and the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, has remained largely unused after agreement on Brexit was reached.
Speaking today, Teachta Kenny said:
“We’re talking about 14 hectares of land that was leased by two state agencies who were, quite rightly, trying to provide a solution to the anticipated long queues at ports post-Brexit. Ireland relies heavily on imports from Britain so the infrastructure of a so-called ‘red lane’ was more important here than anywhere else in Europe.
“Thankfully, we haven’t needed this additional space for import checks because of the agreements reached in Europe. Yet, this land is still being leased and remaining underused.
“This 14 hectares of space is completely underutilised. Most of the time these yards and lanes are not being used at all.
“There needs to be a review of that and recognition of the progress that has been made with Brexit and the Protocol deal. The red and amber lane have been used very little, and it’s unlikely that will change in future.
“As the port continues to undergo much-needed development to increase its capabilities, we simply cannot have this underuse of valuable space - not to mention the wasting of financial resources by the state in a lease that is no longer required."