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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has said an Executive is needed to address pressures facing GP services.

The party's health spokesperson said:

“Reports that up to 100 GP practices are seeking emergency support due to staff shortages and other pressures are deeply concerning .

“This week I met with GP representatives to discuss how we can work together to address these issues that are affecting both patients and GPs.

“We need to tackle the problems facing our health service and ensure people can see a GP when they need one by getting the Executive up and running today to invest an extra £1 billion in our health service to recruit more doctors to tackle shortages and lengthy waiting lists. 

“The people suffering from the DUP’s boycott of the Assembly and Executive are those patients stuck on a waiting list and those struggling to see their doctor.

“We are ready to get around the table with others today to do the job we are elected to do, that means making health a priority and working to fix the problems in our health service."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, has said the suggestion that households be charged even more for using electricity at peak times needs to be ruled out by the government, as they simply cannot afford further increased energy costs.

His comments come as the ESRI today said electricity supply companies may be charged more for their customers to use electricity between the hours of 5pm and 7pm.

The Meath East TD said; 

“The suggestion that households be charged even more for using electricity at peak times needs to be taken off the table.

“The government have brought about a dire electricity capacity shortage, mainly due to the uncontrolled expansion in the number of data centres hoovering up electricity here.

“70% of the increased electricity demand in the last year has come from large energy users such as data centres, but predictably ordinary households now look set to pay the price.

“I recognise the CRU’s concerns and the need to reduce demand at peak times due to the current capacity constraints, but financially penalising people in the midst of a severe energy price crisis is not the answer.

“A public information campaign, asking people to reduce their use at these times, and having cheaper electricity rates at other times, to act as an incentive, can help address this problem.

“The cost of living crisis is placing huge pressure on people. People are being hit by soaring costs from all sides across rent, childcare costs, energy costs and groceries to name just a few. People urgently need to get a break from the cost of living crisis.

"People are really struggling to meet their skyrocketing bills and are facing one of the most difficult winters when it comes to energy prices. Government needs to mitigate energy price increases, not add to them. Sinn Féin in government would stand up for people hit by the cost of living crisis, to ensure that they get a much-needed break from these spiralling costs.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Darren O’Rourke TD, has said thousands of children will again be turned away from school transport this year due to a failure by the government to recognise demand and invest in extra capacity.

Teachta O’Rourke called for 10,000 extra places to be funded and made available to help meet demand.

The Meath East TD said; 

“This week parents across the state are getting notified that they have failed to secure a seat for their child on the local school bus.

“Every year the School Transport Scheme is significantly over-subscribed and instead of harnessing this demand, the government sit on their hands and let the situation repeat itself, year after year. 

“This causes huge problems for parents who are trying to juggle their work commitments.

“In addition, we are turning thousands of children away from this public transport option, which is totally at odds with our climate ambitions, as it results in thousands of extra private car journeys to and from school each day.

“While the decision by Government to eliminate school transport fees for the 2022/2023 school year is welcome, it does nothing to address the capacity constraints. More needs to be done. 

“Sinn Féin have called for 10,000 extra seats to be added to the system, in addition to investing in new school buses and eliminating school transport fees.

“By expanding this scheme, we can cut transport emissions, reduce dangerous traffic congestion outside schools, while providing parents and guardians with a convenient method of transport for their children.

“Expanding the School Transport Scheme is a win-win for parents and for the environment.“The Ministers for Transport and Education should now step in and immediately increase capacity to ensure as many children as possible can be accommodated.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has said the British Secretary of State’s claims on the protocol are dishonest and disingenuous.

The party's economy spokesperson said:

"If the British Secretary of State is only hearing from businesses opposed to the protocol, he needs to get out more and talk to businesses other than those handpicked by the NIO.

"The majority of businesses here support the protocol and the mitigations it provides against the worst excesses of the hard Brexit imposed by the Tories and DUP.

"The weight of economic evidence is also highlighting the benefits of the protocol, while increased north south trade and new investment are benefitting local businesses.

"It is dishonest and disingenuous to claim the protocol isn't working and that businesses don't support it.

"It would fit Shailesh Vara better to actually listen to people here and for his government to engage in good faith with the EU to provide long term certainty and stability to businesses."

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Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins has said an Executive is needed now to start to fix the health service and recruit more doctors and nurses.

Commenting on reports of huge pressures at Daisy Hill Hospital, the Newry/Armagh MLA urged the DUP to end its boycott of government.

Liz Kimmins said:

“Reports in recent days from Daisy Hill hospital and the toll it is taking on staff and patients is deeply concerning, particularly people waiting for hours in hospital corridors. It’s unacceptable. 

“I spoke with senior officials from the Southern Trust to discuss solutions to the problems facing Daisy Hill Hospital.

“We need an Executive up and running now to start to fix our health service and urgently invest an extra £1 billion to recruit more doctors and nurses, tackle waiting lists and fund services.

“The people suffering from the DUP’s boycott of the Assembly and Executive are those patients waiting hours in A&E and laying on trolleys in hospital corridors.

“Sinn Féin is ready to get around the table with others today to do the job we are elected to do, that means making health a priority and working to fix the problems in our health service.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Ciara Ferguson has accused the British Secretary of State Shailesh Vara of ‘ducking and diving’ from victims and families in Derry today who oppose the Tory government’s legacy plans.

The Foyle MLA said:

“The British Secretary of State slipped off like a thief in the night up a one-way street just to avoid speaking to victims and families in Derry today.

“Once again, a Tory minister has demonstrated a total disregard for victims and families who are opposed to its Bill of Shame.

“The British government is forcing through its legacy plans and ignoring opposition from victims and families, all political parties on this island, the Irish government and the Human Rights Commission who have branded it flawed.

“People see this plan as more cover-up by a Tory government that wants to let its own state forces off the hook for killing Irish citizens during the conflict and shut down a route to justice.

“This flawed legislation should be binned, and the Stormont House Agreement of 2014 should be implemented to ensure victims and families have access to truth and justice in a human rights compliant manner.

“Rather than ducking and diving from families, the British Secretary of State should listen to their views and respect their wishes.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has welcomed the establishment of the Strategic Advisory Group on Monkeypox, saying it should work to monitor and plan measures taken across the health sector in a transparent and proactive way.

He said that it must ensure proper planning for the vaccination programme.

Teachta Cullinane said it was his view that the Minister’s plan should be looked at by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health in the coming weeks, and that he had written to the Chair of the Committee Seán Crowe TD to seek a hearing.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“The establishment of the Strategic Advisory Group on Monkeypox, chaired by the CMO, is a welcome response to the World Health Organisation’s designation of the virus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

“It is appropriate that all reasonable precautions are being taken proactively and that the health sector is prepared for any potential escalations.

“The advisory group must work to monitor and plan measures across the HSE, Department, and health sector, and should provide for transparent oversight and coordination.

“It is important that the government secures a sufficient supply of the vaccine, and particularly important that people who are at high risk have a vaccine made available to them.

“The health sector must be aligned to provide these vaccines as well as flu and covid vaccines over the coming weeks and months as we approach the winter season.

“Public information regarding monkeypox, symptoms, prevention, and access to vaccines is essential, along with targeted measures in communities of high prevalence or transmission.

“I believe that the Oireachtas Committee on Health has an appropriate role in scrutinising the Minister’s plan, as well as being an important public forum for sharing and communicating information.

“I have written to the Chair of the Committee seeking a hearing on the matter to ensure the measures are sufficient.”

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Welcoming the postponement of the A6 closure this weekend Sinn Féin councillor Kathleen McGurk has said she and party colleagues will meet with the Department for Infrastructure and contractors.

Cllr McGurk said:

“The Department for Infrastructure has confirmed the planned closure of the A6 this weekend has been postponed.

“Along with my colleagues Caoimhe Archibald MLA and Cllr Sean McGlinchey, I will be meeting with Department for Infrastructure officials and the contractor to find a way forward to ensure these important works can be completed as quickly as possible.

“The A6 dualling and Dungiven bypass is a much-needed and supported project that people have campaigned 50 years for and while disruption is unavoidable, we want to see this minimised.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing Thomas Gould TD has today welcomed news that a HSE pilot anonymous drug-checking facility will operate at Electric Picnic this year.

Teachta Gould said:

“This is a positive day for harm reduction in this state. This facility has the potential to save lives and protect young people from potential harm.

“It has been a long time coming, with a commitment first made in 2020 by Minister Frank Feighan, but it is great to see that this will finally happen now.

“We need to see this pilot rolled out alongside education programmes that will warn young people of the potential harms associated with drugs.

“I want to again encourage the government to consider, based on the success of this pilot, inclusion of drug checking as a condition of licensing for similar major events and festivals as we see in other European countries.

“Saving lives has to be a number one priority in harm reduction and today’s announcement could be a huge step forward in reducing drug fatalities and hospitalisations at major festivals."

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has expressed concern at reports that the Southern Trust may undermine the terms and conditions of up to 52 experienced midwives

The party's health spokesperson said:

“I am deeply alarmed at reports that the Southern Trust is potentially looking at plans to undermine the terms and conditions of 52 experienced midwives.

“Reports suggest that the Trust will remove their contracts and instead place them on what are essentially zero hour contracts.

“It is unacceptable that at a time when our health service is crying out for more experienced staff that the Trust would consider doing something like this.

“It's deeply concerning too that workers should face this level of uncertainty around their terms and conditions given the current cost-of-living crisis.

“I intend to meet with the Trust as well as the affected midwives in the coming days to get to the bottom of this situation and to seek and urgent resolution.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has condemned the Israeli military raid on the offices and premises of a number of Palestinian NGOs, which comes 100 days after the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh. 

Videos of the raid circulating online show Israeli military personnel removing material from the offices of the NGOs and, in a number of instances, welding steel covers on doorways to prevent access to the buildings. 

The organisations were also served with military orders declaring them closed. This is nothing more than another disgraceful attempt by Israeli authorities to further isolate Palestinian civil society from the global community.

The targeted organisations include, The Union of Palestinian Women (UPC), Defence for Children (DCI Palestine), Addamer, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, and Al-Haq, the Palestinian human rights organisation.

Teachta Brady said:

“I want to utterly condemn the series of raids conducted by Israeli military forces on the offices of NGOs representing Palestinian civil society.

"These include organisations that were arbitrarily designated as terrorist entities last October, a claim for which Israel has not offered anything which approaches credible evidence, despite repeated requests to do so. 

“A number of the NGOs were funded by the EU, and individual EU states including Ireland. The global human rights community, the United Nations, and many state governments rejected the designation of the NGOs.

“The huge raids resulted in the Israeli military removing large amounts of material, welding steel covers on doors to their premises, and serving military orders declaring them closed.

“This is just a continuation of the attack on Palestinian civil society, which began last October. It is a further attempt by Israel to isolate Palestinian society from the global community.

"The failure of the international community to once again act against Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people has merely emboldened the aggressors to go one step further.

“Israel is intent on silencing all internal voices of dissent against its violent apartheid colonial regime. The silence and inaction of the international community permits Israel to escalate its violence and oppression against Palestinians.

“I want to call upon the Irish government, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in particular, to use Ireland's position on the UN Security Council, and in the EU to voice the strongest possible condemnation of these disgraceful actions, and to lead the call for the international community to act. Israel cannot be allowed to prosecute its oppressive and discriminatory actions against the Palestinian people without sanction.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has received startling figures from the HSE that shows a year-on-year increase in the amount of children who are referred to CAMHS but are denied treatment.

Teachta Ward said:

“Information I received from the HSE through a Parliamentary Question shows an annual increase in children being refused treatment with CAMHS after a medical expert made a referral.

“In 2020, 72% of all referrals to CAMHS were accepted nationally. This has decreased to 62% today.

“There is also an element of postcode treatment in the provision of CAMHS services.

“In CHO Area 1, which includes Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan 73% of all referrals were accepted.

“However in CHO Area 9, which includes Dublin North, Dublin North Central, and Dublin North West, only 46% of children referred were accepted for treatment.

“Treatment should be based on need, not on location.

“In CHO Area 4, which includes Kerry, North Cork, North Lee, South Lee, and West Cork there has been a staggering 22% decrease in children accepted by CAMHS between 2020 and today.

“This is the area that the Maskey report published in January found that 46 children who attended South Kerry CAMHS between 2016 and 2020 had suffered significant harm under the care of a doctor.

“A further 227 children, who were treated by the same doctor, were put at risk of harm, while 13 young patients had also been put at risk while under the care of other doctors.

“There are two national audits into CAMHS at present. These audits must include why 1000s of children are refused treatment annually.

“The HSE and the Government must investigate why there is an increase in children being refused treatment and why different CHO areas are performing better than others.

“The very first operational guideline for CAMHS states it aims to ‘provide consistency in the service delivery of CAMHS throughout the country’.

“This is obviously not happening, and these operational guidelines also need to be reviewed.

“Even when a child is accepted for treatment, they will join the over 4000 children waiting for an appointment with CAMHS.”

The response to Deputy Ward's Parliamentary Question can be read here.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Louise O’Reilly TD, has said that a sensible response is necessary to ensure all monies owed under the tax warehousing scheme is recovered while not putting small and medium enterprise and microbusiness at risk.

Teahcta O’Reilly said:

“The tax warehousing scheme offered businesses some respite during the height of the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed, the volume of tax warehoused under the scheme showed how much of a lifeline it was for business.

“However, we are now entering a crunch period as the majority of businesses still to repay their warehoused tax will begin to do so from January 2023 onwards.

“It is essential that Revenue and the Minister for Finance approach repayment in a manner that ensures all monies owed are repaid, but that does not push companies towards the brink of administration or liquidation.

“The Minister and Revenue should have a plan in place that delivers for the exchequer, for business, and for workers.

“The total debt eligible for the Debt Warehousing Scheme since its introduction was €31.947 billion, and as of 30 June, 91 per cent of the warehoused tax debt had been repaid.

“However, there is still €2.892 billion in tax warehoused and a Parliamentary Question provided to me outlined that Revenue have already had to write off €26.4 million from companies that have been liquidated since the introduction of the scheme. It is incredibly important that tax write-offs are kept as low as possible. 

“The Department of Finance has made the prudent assumption that 25 per cent of the warehoused tax liabilities will not be repaid, i.e., that 25 per cent of the businesses that have availed of the scheme will never be in a position to repay.

“It is now up to the Department and Revenue to be flexible and work together to ensure that this figure is minimised as much as possible.

“The cost of doing business has exploded for companies as the rates for energy, fuel, materials and stock, insurance, and transport, amongst others, have risen significantly.

“This must be taken into consideration by the Minister for Finance and Revenue when working out repayment plans.

“It is better to be flexible and recover all the tax owed than to be inflexible and push companies into liquidation which would see none of the tax owed repaid.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has congratulated students who received BTEC, AS and A Level results this morning for their efforts and achievements. 

The education spokesperson said: 

“I want to congratulate all those students who received their results today for their achievements and all their efforts after what has been a very difficult couple of years for all students, teachers, school staff and parents.

"I wish all young people who are now making decisions on their future well and would encourage them to talk over their options with parents, schools and careers advisors and to remember that there are always options and opportunities open to them. 

"I would also call on those celebrating their results to do so safely and responsibly and wish them all the best for the future."

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has welcomed compensation for victims of the contaminated blood scandal and said the Department of Health must ‘act quickly’ to ensure people are paid.

The party’s health spokesperson said:

“It’s welcome news that victims of the contaminated blood scandal will receive interim compensation for the horrific suffering they endured.

“The Department of Health should now act quickly to ensure these payments are progressed without any further delays.

“These victims and their families have suffered and waited too long for redress, and they should receive these payments as quickly as possible.” 

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has branded the arrival of the Tory leadership contest to the north ‘totally insulting’ and said they have no regard for the people of the north.

The North Belfast MP said:

“The Tories have no mandate and not a single elected representative in Ireland and they have absolutely no regard for the democratic wishes of the people of the north.

“It’s totally insulting for Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to rock up here today to choose a Tory leader and British Prime Minister that no one in the north voted for in the first place.  

“What people did vote for was to oppose the destructive Brexit that they forced upon us and to invest an extra £1 billion to fix the health service that they have run into the ground with cruel cuts for over a decade.

“And now the Tories are propping up the DUP’s block on an Executive being formed and money being spent during a cost-of-living emergency, while attempting to strip away our businesses' unique access to the British and EU markets that is creating jobs here.

“No matter who becomes Tory leader or British Prime Minister, it is clear that they will not act in the best interests of people in Ireland.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Deirdre Hargey has said the DUP’s ‘cruel boycott’ of the Executive is punishing workers and families who are struggling to pay their bills.

Responding to news that gas prices will rise by 30% in October, the communities minister called on Jeffrey Donaldson’s party to get back to work to tackle the cost-of-living emergency.

Deirdre Hargey said:

“News today that gas prices will rise again by up to 30% in October is another kick in the teeth for people whose bills are already through the roof. 

“There is £435 million sitting in a Stormont bank account that can help ease the pressures people are facing, but it cannot be spent because the DUP are blocking an Executive.

“People are bewildered that a DUP minister is attending meetings to find workarounds to get the £400 energy payment out to households when the obvious solution is for him and his colleagues to get back to work around the Executive table.

“I am calling on DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson to end this cruel boycott of government and stop punishing ordinary workers and families who are struggling to pay their bills. Their refusal is a dereliction of duty.

“Sinn Féin is ready to form an Executive today, to work with others, and put money in people’s pockets to tackle the cost-of-living emergency.”

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Sinn Féin MP Órfhlaith Begley has expressed sympathy to the family of the young man tragically killed in an accident on the main A5 Beltany Road outside Omagh.

The West Tyrone MP said:

“I wish to extend my heartfelt sympathy to the immediate and wider family circle of the deceased.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the emergency services who attended the scene of the tragedy.

“The community are deeply shocked and saddened at this latest tragedy.

“This is the second death resulting from an accident on the A5 within the last month alone and further reinforces the need for its long overdue upgrade. I will continue to press for the delivery of the A5 upgrade.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald called on the British government to ‘get real’ on tackling the cost-of-living emergency as businesses close their doors.

The party's economy spokesperson said:

“We are in the midst of a cost-of-living emergency which has reduced the ability of workers and families to buy even basics with some people facing the choice between heating or eating.

“This has had a knock-on effect on retailers who have experienced the biggest drop in sales in ten years which has resulted in businesses closing their doors as they struggle to cope with rising costs, particularly of energy bills.

"Inflation is at a 40-year high and workers and families are struggling with ongoing rises to the price of food, fuel and electricity.

“There is a real onus on the British Government to allocate funding to support our businesses and protect jobs, to date they have failed to take any action to help businesses.

“The reduced rate of VAT should also be reintroduced for businesses that had it reduced during the pandemic, including bars and restaurants. 

"The British government must get real on the impact of the soaring cost of living and cost of doing business.

“The DUP should end its boycott of our democratic institutions so we can get money out to those who are struggling.” 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Rural Development, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on the Minister for Rural and Community Development to bring forward crucial protections for rural communities.

This call follows the publication of the Department’s Annual Report 2021, which provided an overview of the policies, programmes and initiatives set out in the ‘Our Rural Future Strategy’.

Teachta Kerrane said:

“While there has been progress in some focus areas and increased funding from the Department, the report underlines several areas where important measures must be put in place to adequately support rural areas.

“I welcome investment in services and schemes, but we continue to see an absence of key measures which would underpin the revitalisation of our rural communities.

“For example, while it is positive that Minister Humphreys has launched working hubs in communities across the state, the legislation to ensure those living in rural areas have the right to use these facilities and to work remotely remains absent.

“Similarly, although the report discusses the need to support our Islands, we are still waiting for the Minister to launch her long-awaited Islands Strategy.

"The contents of this strategy are important for setting out exactly how the government intends to provide this support to Island communities over the next decade.

“I know from engagement with organisations like Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, and those living in island communities, that the detail of the strategy really matters. So far, we are seeing little detail on what the strategy will entail.

“As well as this, the ‘Our Rural Future’ strategy clearly sets out intentions to develop a ‘rural-proofing’ model, to ensure the needs of rural communities are considered in the development of government policies.

“This is something Sinn Féin has called for and I introduced legislation on this very issue in 2021. My Rural Equality Bill seeks to ensure that rural needs assessments are considered as part of policy formation, so that rural Ireland is not left behind or adversely affected by government or state body decisions.  

“However, there is still no indication of what this rural-proofing model will involve, or when it will be introduced. I have repeatedly raised the matter with the Minister and no timeline has been given.

“Considering the development of a rural-proofing model is not mentioned in the Department’s Annual Report, I again call on the Minister to clarify when we can expect to see this model be put in place.

“It is important that oversight and monitoring mechanisms serve to protect and support rural communities and that this is prioritised moving forward.

“Sinn Féin wants to ensure our rural communities are supported and can reach their full potential. The right ambition, investment, planning and commitment to delivery is crucial to making that happen.”

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