Speaking this evening after the release of the hospital waiting list figures for May, Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly said there is a solution staring the Minister for Health in the face.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The latest figures released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund reveal there are now up to 556,411 people, up over 4,000 on last month, waiting for an outpatient appointment in hospitals across the State.
“106,145 of those are waiting 18 months or more.
“These figures are a monthly reminder of how many people are suffering across the State and also underlines the incompetence of the Government when it comes to dealing with this issue.
“However, a significant contribution to resolving this crisis can be made by the introduction of an integrated waiting list system which essentially pools the country's hospital waiting lists.
“Such a system which pools the waiting lists and maximises the resources we have in the health service would allow patients to transfer from hospitals with long lists, to those with shorter waiting times.
“It means that people on long waiting lists at certain hospitals would go to the nearest available hospital which has the capacity to do that procedure – it makes complete sense and we know it works in other countries and it also works here, in the RCSI Hospitals Group.
“This system works, we have been calling for its implementation for years, the Minister needs to take the initiative and pilot this on a national basis.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on LGBTQI rights Senator Fintan Warfield has welcomed the formal advice given by HIQA today that a PrEP programme within the State would be safe, effective and cost-saving along with the government response committing to a PrEP HIV prevention programme in the Autumn.
He cautioned that PrEP in only one measure in combatting increasing HIV rate and that our sexual health and testing need to be funded adequately and that the programme needs to be State-wide.
Senator Warfield said:
“There were 531 new diagnoses of HIV in 2018, an 8% increase from the previous year. Rates are increasing in recent years where our European counterparts are working to eradicate HIV.
“The responses to rising HIV rates in recent years have ultimately not had an effect on bringing down transmission so a programme in which PrEP is accessible to those who are vulnerable to acquisition of HIV must be welcomed.
“However, the State also has an alarmingly high rate of late-diagnoses of HIV, meaning that many people who become infected may not receive regular testing and could infect others before their diagnosis.
“Properly resourced and accessible sexual health services and testing means that we can stop a chain of infection early and treat those who are HIV positive to become untransmittable. Only 43% of the 23 public STI clinics across the state offer free walk-in services.
“I believe PrEP is a vital component in combatting rising HIV rates but this government’s lacklustre attempts in sexual health responses in the past leave much to be desired.”
Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has challenged the PSNI to explain why a masked man was allowed to put up a controversial banner in Armagh city centre supporting an ex-British soldier facing murder charges over the Bloody Sunday massacre.
The Newry and Armagh MP said:
"In broad daylight a masked man put up a controversial banner in the middle of Armagh city centre expressing support of Soldier F, the former British soldier facing murder charges in relation to Bloody Sunday.
"PSNI officers were nearby at at the time and watched the masked man put up this banner but did not intervene.
"It is wrong that this banner has been erected in Armagh city centre in the first instance but it is absolutely unacceptable that the PSNI stood by at the bottom of the ladder and watched while a masked man put it up.
"Incidents like this do nothing to support efforts to build community confidence in the PSNI.
"I have called for an urgent meeting with the PSNI over this and will be challenging them to explain why police officers stood by and watched while a masked man was in the city centre in broad daylight."
Speaking today, Sinn Féin TD for Fingal Louise O’Reilly said that waiting times for cataract surgery in Fingal are out of control, despite there being a solution to address the problem.
Deputy O’Reilly said:
“The waiting list for cataract surgery in Fingal has risen from 24 months in 2018 to 36 months in 2019.
“The information from the Association of Optometrists Ireland is incredibly worrying.
“Cataract procedures usually take around 10 minutes to perform, yet there are over 6,000 patients waiting on an operation across the state, with hundreds of these patients in Fingal.
“Patients suffer when they have to wait for cataract surgery, they lose sight, they lose independence, they can have accidents from falls, and all this costs patients and the health service more.
“The current system is not working – it needs to be overhauled.
“Thankfully, there is a clear solution - the award-winning Sligo Cataract Scheme. The Sligo-Leitrim constituency has the shortest waiting time in the State thanks to this cost-neutral scheme.
“This scheme needs to be rolled out nationwide and it needs to be rolled out nationwide, so Optometrists and Hospital Eye Departments can work together to reduce these waiting lists.”
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Sinn Féin TD for Sligo, Leitrim, North Roscommon and South Donegal Martin Kenny asked Minister Richard Bruton if the government would go through the process of objecting to a fracking licence being granted to the Tamboran company in Fermanagh.
“In the early days of this Dáil, we banned fracking, fortunately,” Deputy Kenny said, mentioning Deputy Tony McLoughlin and former TD Michael Colreavy’s work on that issue.
“Unfortunately, the jurisdiction extends only to 26 counties. A company that got a licence here previously for hydraulic fracking, Tamboran, has recently applied for an exploration licence in County Fermanagh, for a region extending from Beleek right down to Derrylin.
“Until 5 July, there will be an opportunity for a consultation process. It will be appropriate, in the context of our banning fracking in this State because of the associated environmental concerns, for the Minister's department to make an application to the North stating we are opposed to the licensing because it will have detrimental environmental consequences for people living in the region.”
In response, the Minister said he would check on the matter with his department.
Speaking afterwards, Deputy Kenny said:
“I will be keeping an eye on this because the environmental consequences will not recognise any border. This is a serious problem for the people of my constituency and neighbouring areas and this government should do everything possible to protects us from the effects of fracking in Fermanagh.”
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said Brexit cannot be allowed to impact on the implementation of EU support measures for working carers.
New measures include carers leave arrangements to enable working carers to avail of five days annual leave per year and extends the right to request flexible working arrangements.
Colm Gildernew said:
“I welcome the adoption of new EU measures which will provide much needed relief for working carers.
“If implemented fully these rights will have an enormous impact given that there are 125,000 working carers currently in the north.
“It is clear that the lack of work-life balance for carers is a major issue and in many cases has led to carers giving up their employment in order to fulfil their caring responsibilities.
“These new measures which include five days annual leave per year and the right to request flexible working arrangements which will help to address imbalance for working carers.
“EU member states have three years to implement this new directive. Brexit cannot be allowed to stand in the way of better protections for our carers. These new measures must be implemented as soon as possible.”
Sinn Féin Communications Spokesperson Brian Stanley TD had it confirmed at an Oireachtas Committee meeting yesterday by Analysys Mason that the entire National Broadband Plan (NBP) was derailed by Fine Gael in 2017 when it allowed Eir to cherry pick 300k homes right in the middle of negotiations.
Analysys Mason spent three years as the central technical advisor to the Government on the NBP and described Fine Gael’s contract with Eir in 2017 as a “double whammy” which “was not consistent with what the bidder needed” and led to a substantial increase in the cost of the project.
Speaking after the committee last evening, Deputy Stanley said:
“Yesterday, it was confirmed to me by the Governments technical advisor on the NBP that the decision to allow Eir to cherry pick the 300k most easy to reach homes in the Intervention Area banjaxed the entire NBP.
“Two years ago, I told the Government that this would derail the project and that is exactly what has happened. That decision has had a huge material effect on the process and resulted in a huge economic impact.
“Analysys Mason described it as having a 'double whammy' effect. First of all the contract forbids the State from using Eir’s network, which means the State will now have to roll out its own network side-by-side with Eir’s in order to reach the 540k remaining difficult to get to homes which Eir rejected.
“Secondly, the contract prohibits the State from ever being able to create revenue from the 300k homes which Eir cherry-picked even though the State network will be side-by-side. Eir have now expanded this area to 340k homes.
“Just when you thought that the NBP couldn’t become any more of a fiasco, Analysys Mason provide us with these further revelations outlining how the NBP was essentially sabotaged two years ago by Fine Gael’s deal with Eir.
“How that decision by Fine Gael will have long term material and economic consequences for any State broadband plan that emerges."
Speaking following Senate approval of the appointment of Mr Edward Crawford as the new US Ambassador to Ireland, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said:
“I would like to congratulate Mr Crawford in securing the approval of the US senate.
“Ireland’s connection with the US is greater than diplomacy; it is a bond of kinship and one that Ambassador Crawford fully understands.
“I look forward to meeting with the new Ambassador to discuss maintaining our strong economic, cultural, and social links and the continued role of the United States in the peace process. That help and encouragement is important in securing the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.”
Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane has called on the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, to expedite the work to extend the runway at Waterford Airport, saying that it is an issue not just for the city and county but for the entire south-east region as well.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“Notwithstanding the caveats placed upon it by Cabinet, the government’s commitment to the future development of Waterford Airport is to be welcomed.
“I note that this is through matching funds, not a grant, but the important thing is we have an opportunity here to secure a key capital project for the region and it must be grasped with both hands.
“The local authorities of the south-east, as well as certain business interests, have agreed to participate on the basis that the Minister will release €5m for the project.
“The reason why there have not been any flights from Waterford Airport in three years is because it is well-nigh impossible to attract carriers to use the Airport in its present condition.
“We need the investment in order to extend the runway and by doing so bring much-needed jobs and infrastructure to Waterford and the south-east.
“This has to be a priority for the Minister and government. We cannot continue to see the south-east downgraded by officials in Dublin with little or no idea of the needs of the region.
“Both local business and regional authorities have shown their commitment to the Airport. We need the Minister to act quickly and follow up his announcement as a matter of urgency.
“Despite all the caveats, we need this to happen.
“I will support this initiative in every way I can.”
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said the DUP cannot hide its support for a hard Brexit by trying to blame others.
The South Down MP said:
“It is ridiculous for the DUP to claim that the Irish government is somehow responsible for driving Britain towards a no deal Brexit.
“In reality it is the DUP propping up the British Tories and aligning themselves with the hardliners in the Tories who are competing with each other to deliver the hardest Brexit that is driving us towards a disastrous no deal crash out.
“They are doing this in total contradiction of the democratically expressed views of the people of the north.
“The DUP cannot hide their support for a hard Brexit by trying to deflect the blame onto others.”
Sinn Féin East Belfast Representative Mairead O'Donnell has welcomed tonight’s news that Belfast City Council has approved formal planning permission for the “Waterside” development on the former Sirocco site in the Short Strand, stating that it has massive potential and that the site has lay derelict for too long.
Speaking this evening Ms. O'Donnell said:
"Tonight’s announcement is welcome news. Importantly the commitment by a private developer to the provision of social housing on-site is a positive and unprecedented step and comes after extensive engagement between Sinn Féin, community groups and local housing providers.
"The site formerly occupied by the Sirocco factory has lay empty and derelict for over ten years and has passed through previous ownerships with much promise but unfortunately no delivery.
"It is a site with massive potential to transform this part of the city and deliver investment in jobs, leisure and housing.
"I have been engaging with the Swinford group since they acquired the site in 2016 with the focus being primarily on the delivery of social housing units.
"That engagement has been constructive and while today’s announcement concerns plans for office space, the next phase will focus on residential development including social housing units.
“Inclusive growth is a cornerstone to our Belfast Agenda and we have to ensure we grow our economy in an inclusive way that tackles the inequalities that exist such as housing and low wages and we want to encourage investment that does this.
“I, along with the local community, will continue to engage constructively with the developer to ensure delivery on their commitments."
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has said there is a united voice coming from the north west to a demand a medical school for Derry.
The Foyle MP said:
“Today the mayor of Derry and my party colleague Councillor Michaela Boyle convened a cross party meeting involving political leaders from the city and representatives of Ulster University to discus securing a medical school at Magee.
“It is clear there is a united voice coming from the city in support a medical school.
“We now want an urgent meeting with the head of the civil service and the permanent secretary of the department of health to urge them to give the go ahead to this vital project.”
Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said today's meeting of the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in Armagh gave local people an opportunity to raise their concerns about the disastrous impact of Brexit.
The Newry and Armagh MP said
"Today members of the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee came to Armagh to meet with civic, business and political leaders and local stakeholders for a wide-ranging discussion on peace and reconciliation.
"I attended the meeting along with local community and arts groups, business and tourism development projects and others to discuss the concerns people in this area have, particular around the impact of Brexit.
"As a border constituency, Newry and Armagh will be particularly badly hit by the reckless Brexit agenda being pursued by the British government against the wishes of the people here.
"There is a real concern about the impact Brexit will have on the Good Friday Agreement, our peace process and, in particular, the border.
"I regularly raise the concerns of the people of this area with British MPs from all parties at Westminster but it is important that they have the opportunity to raise those concerns directly at events like this."
Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has called on the BBC to reverse its decision to scrap free TV licences for all over 75s after it was revealed it was warned that its plan to introduce means testing would hit the most vulnerable pensioners hardest.
Mickey Brady said:
"The announcement by the BBC that it is planning to cut free TV licences for all over 75s by introducing means testing will hit the most vulnerable hardest.
"I have previously criticised the move and now I am calling on the BBC to reverse its decision in light of the fact that it has been revealed that the BBC was fully aware that the move would hit those most in need.
"It commissioned a report in November 2018 which found that only 11 per cent of those who had previously received a free TV licence will continue to do so.
"The BBC knew the impact of this move but it went ahead and did it anyway.
"The now need to reverse this decision immediately.”
Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy has said it is important the local community are kept up to date on any plans for the future of the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown.
The Mid Ulster MP said:
“The news of the planning application will have come as a surprise to many people and of course it is only natural that their thoughts will be drawn to recent events at the Cookstown venue.
“This application is at a very early stage and is a decision that the owners will not have taken lightly given the events of St. Patrick’s night. However, this process will not happen overnight and any development, if it happens at all, will not take place quickly, it would be a number of months before planners will have made a full decision.
“It is important that people who have bookings with the Greenvale for weddings or events are kept fully informed of what the plans are.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the news of the massive increase in insurance companies profits huge profits is evidence that despite industry spin the real cause of spiralling insurance costs is not down to claims or awards but pure price gouging.
He said government policy must now reflect this reality and any reforms that benefit the industry must be matched by clear verifiable commitments from them to reduce premiums.
Deputy Doherty said:
“Today’s news of huge increase in profits for insurers must mark the end of patience with an industry that has spun and blustered its way through years of unjustifiable increases while being treated with kid gloves by government. Let’s not forget that this sector is under formal investigation by domestic and EU competition authorities.
"I have always stated that the industry is spinning and bluffing and needed to be called out. I hope the penny has now dropped for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
"Any reforms that benefit the industry must be matched by clear verifiable commitments from them to reduce insurance premiums to their customers. This was previously done in 2002 by Insurance Ireland’s predecessor the Insurance Industry Federation.
"The Central Bank’s insurance database must be extended to include public liability insurance immediately and the CSO or some other body must put in place a way of measuring the cost of insurance for businesses and motorists that is reliable. We are years into this crisis and still lack the most basic transparency over pricing for a product that is compulsory.
"I met yesterday with Minister Darcy and expressed my concern and the ongoing crisis and its immediate effects on business and our society. I made it clear I intend to advance far reaching proposal to my Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill to reform how insurers operate. This bill will come before the finance committee next month for committee stage.
"There are clearly issues with awards and fraud that need to be dealt with. We need to have a zero tolerance to fraud and exaggerated claims but there is no proof that these issues are the cause of the large increases.
"The reality is we lack the transparency to know if such a link exists but government policy up to now has been based entirely on accepting the industry’s word that this is the cause of increase premiums. This assumption must end.
"The €227 million profits that were made by the industry last year a 1,300% increase in their profits from the previous year is clear evidence that these companies are involved in blatant price gouging.
"We cannot lose sight of the fact that ordinary worker and citizens who are in injured through no fault of their own are entitled to claim compensation. The escapades of a number of Fine Gael TD’s have only helped to tar all claimants with the brush of chancers.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader in the Dáil Pearse Doherty TD has urged the government to immediately inform the public as to what projects are going to be cut or delayed as a result of the National Children’s Hospital cost overrun.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil this afternoon, Teachta Doherty said:
“Yesterday’s revelations regarding of rising costs to construct the National Children’s Hospital are cause for considerable public concern.
“This is a project that was costed at €790 million in 2013, at €983 million in April 2017, and which we were told had a ‘Guaranteed Maximum Price’ of €1.4 billion in December.
“We now know that there has been a considerable amount of claims from the contractor for additional money, as well for extensions of time that will undoubtedly push the price higher than the so-called ‘Guaranteed Maximum Price’.
“We are also told that the project is facing the risk of delays in meeting important milestones - delays that would add around €10 million to the cost for every month it runs over.
“This is very concerning and demands a robust response from the government and the Minister for Health. There needs to be a plan put in place to ensure these costs are controlled.
“There is very real concern in communities across the State about how this going to impact on them and on commitments made to fund other projects that are badly needed.
“This is an issue in Cork in relation to the proposed paediatric unit at CUH and the commitment for an MRI scanner at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar.
"Clarification is also need on the second Cath Lab at University Hospital Waterford, proposed ward upgrades in Cavan as well as the investment in community hospitals in my own constituency of Donegal.
“People need to get a straight answer as to what projects are going to be cut and delayed as a result of the cost overrun.”
The party’s Health spokesperson was speaking following confirmation that the facility will not be fully operational until Autumn 2020 – eight years behind schedule.
He commented: “The continued frustration and delays are felt by staff and patients alike. It is demoralising to many of the hard working staff to hear that the completion date slips again and again.
“There are serious questions that need to be answered by the Belfast Trust, as to how so much public money has been wasted, sometimes on equipment which has never been used but has gone out-of-date.
“This at a time when we constantly hear that health budgets are stretched and facing pressures. The considerable amount of money wasted could be could be spent in other areas of the health service.
“In December 2018, at the Belfast Trust’s board meeting, it was stated that the facility would be transferred in Jan 2019. This clearly is not the case and the questions have to be asked as to how the transparent the Trust is being and how under control this project actually is.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment Affairs and Social Protection John Brady TD has today introduced a Bill to tackle bogus self employment.
Workers are being pressured into bogus self-employment contracts in a wide variety of sectors including in the media, arts, and construction sectors.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Teachta Brady said;
“This practice has been rampant across numerous sectors for some time now. Bogus self-employment creates big winners and even bigger losers.
“For an employer who classifies a worker who is actually an employee as self-employed there is no Employer PRSI to pay, no pension contributions to make, no sick, paternity or maternity leave to pay, no redundancy payments, no annual leave or public holiday pay.
“For a worker misclassified as self-employed this means less entitlement to social welfare supports if and when they need them. It also means no access to an occupational pension, no paid sick, paternity or maternity leave, no redundancy pay, no fixed breaks or rest periods, no paid annual leave or pubic holidays.
“It means no job security and no protection from unfair dismissal.
“The winner is the fraudulent employer who dodges their responsibilities and bypasses employment law.
“The losers are those that pay the price for the actions of their employer – the workers. The other big loser is the State, who suffers huge losses in PRSI contributions meaning serious consequences for the public finances and the Exchequer
“In the Construction sector alone, ICTU have put the loss of PRSI paid to the State due to bogus self-employment at €640 million over 8 years – that is only one sector where we know that bogus self-employment is an issue and that is the loss.
“This Bill stands up for these workers and the State. It not only seeks to make it an offence to issue a self-employed contract to an employee but it goes much further in ensuring that the self-employed receive basic rights and protections as employees do, such as annual leave and pay and rest periods.
"Basic workers’ rights that have been denied to those left to suffer at the hands of a rogue employer while the State stands idly by.”