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Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy today met with the British Labour Party’s new shadow Secretary of State, Peter Kyle MP at Westminster.

The Mid Ulster MP reiterated Sinn Féin’s opposition to the Tory government’s amnesty proposals for British state forces. 

Francie Molloy said:

“Today, I met with the new shadow Secretary of State, Peter Kyle at Westminster.

“I reiterated the widespread opposition on this island from victims, survivors and political parties to the Tory government’s plan to implement an amnesty for British state forces.

“I welcome his commitment to opposing these proposals and urged him to continue to back the call for this cynical plan to be scrapped.

“Alongside that, I also raised Sinn Féin’s call for the British Labour Party to set out its criteria for the holding of an Irish unity referendum as a potential future British government.

“I look forward to working with Peter in the time ahead.”

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MacManus says “Student Accommodation Crisis only Worsening” following NUIG meeting

Following a meeting with Dr Shazim Husayn NUIG Director of Internationalisation and Director of Global Galway last month, Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has called for “swift action” from government to address the deepening Student Accommodation Crisis. 

MacManus said, “The main point of conversation with Dr. Husayn was of course student accommodation. The government’s handling of the student accommodation situation is a complete shambles. A new strategy is urgently required that will prioritise delivering publicly owned, affordable student accommodation.”

The Midlands Northwest MEP pointed to specific failings in policy.

“What we are witnessing now is an extension of the failings we’ve seen from successive governments in addressing the housing crisis nationally. There is an obvious over-reliance on the private sector and that approach is simply not working. That over reliance has delivered an inadequate amount of student accommodation at completely unaffordable rental prices.”

“Four years ago we saw Fine Gael bring forward its National Student Accommodation Strategy, but it’s abundantly clear it has been a complete and utter failure. The student accommodation crisis is only worsening.”

MacManus’ party colleague Rose Conway-Walsh TD the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, was similarly critical of the failed government strategy. Conway-Walsh commented: 

“The government will claim they met the 7,000 additional student beds set as the minimum target in the strategy. In reality, this target was never capable of meeting the real student housing need. Even within the strategy itself it recognised there were 24,000 students relying on the general private rental market that could not access student specific accommodation.”

“Not only did the government set completely inadequate targets for overall numbers of bed to be added to the system, the plan set no targets for publicly built student accommodation or criteria for affordability. Under eight percent of new student accommodation built since 2017 has been publicly owned, on-campus accommodation. This amounts to only 679 beds.”

“On top of this, colleges increasingly give priority to fee-paying international students for on-campus accommodation in line with government policy. This has led to a situation where up to half of all on-campus student accommodation goes to the more lucrative international students.”

MEP MacManus concluded “A new strategy is urgently required that puts affordability and public ownership at its heart. Better funding for our higher education facilities would allow them to build on-campus accommodation and offer more affordable rents.”

“The current government strategy is putting untold stress and expense on students and their families. Third level education should be a basic human right to any citizen. This government are squeezing out students through their failed policies. The unaffordability of accommodation is cultivating a new education elitism. This is unacceptable and we in Sinn Féin will continue to hold this government to account until the Student Accommodation Crisis is addressed.” ENDS 

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Sinn Féin TD for Clare, Violet-Anne Wynne, has criticised the waiting time for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) across the state, which, as of the end of November, stood at 2,948. 

In response to a parliamentary question submitted by Deputy Wynne, figures from the HSE have revealed that the numbers of young people waiting for access to critical community-based mental health services have not dropped below 2,500 over the past five-year period. 

Teachta Wynne said: 

“Waiting lists to access community healthcare across the state have gone from bad to worse. Quite often, the government uses Covid-19 as a smokescreen for the inefficiency of many services offered by the HSE. 

“In the latest figures we received in response to a parliamentary question, it has been revealed that the number of children waiting for preliminary CAMHS appointments has not dropped below 2,500 over the past five-year period. 

“At the end of 2017, there were 2,513 children and teens waiting; by Q3 of 2021, this figure had actually risen to 2,948. 

“There are also geographic discrepancies between CHO areas. For example, here in Clare, which is in CHO3, the number of children waiting has increased by nearly 30% over this five-year period despite supposed funding increases.  

“The objectives set out in ‘A Vision for Change’, our national mental health strategy published last year, will not be implemented unless the government puts their money where their mouth is and invest significantly in CAMHS services. 

“There are only six inpatient CAMHS units across the whole state, and they are in urban centres, only with four in Galway and Cork, and two more in Dublin.

"As recently as October, there were a grand total of 72 inpatient beds across these six sites. 

“The numbers of children waiting for access to CAMHS services being so consistently high for five years, at the very least, exposes that whatever additional funding or resources have been allocated to the service simply have not worked.

"Children and teenagers are still unable to access the essential services they need.  

“In Ireland, mental health spending accounts for just 6% of the overall health budget. Mental Health Reform Ireland called for a minimum of 8% proportion to be directed into our mental health services, which have been historically underfunded. They called for €85 million for next year’s budget.  

“The government’s shameful announcement of an additional investment of just €24 million falls short of what is needed to combat the incoming tsunami of mental health issues that our services cannot respond to, for children and adults alike. What was a broken system has been aggravated throughout the pandemic. 

“Sinn Féin’s alternative budget would have provided €114 million for next year, with 276 additional psychologists to boost CAMHS over 18 months.  

“The children of Ireland deserve better. Tá sé in am don athrú.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children Kathleen Funchion TD has criticised a government report into developing a new funding model for the childcare sector as it "does not adequately tackle sky-high fees".

Speaking following today’s publication of the 'Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare Expert Group' report, Teachta Funchion said:

"I know that parents will be bitterly disappointed by the contents of today’s report, in particular the lack of recommendations around substantially and systematically addressing exorbitant fees that are financially crippling so many families.

"The Expert Group talk about creating a price comparison website, encouraging the Department to collect more data on provider costs and exploring the possibility of using this information to aid in the management of fees.

"Parents don’t want to compare fees, they want affordable, local and high quality childcare - and they want it now.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the language and terminology used around controlling fees is so wishy-washy. It should be clear, concise and outline mandatory directives and policy for government to follow.

“Parents were promised in Budget 2022 that fees would be addressed by the Expert Group, which was widely welcomed.

"I also cautiously welcomed the Government's apparent policy shift to finally address this issue, however today my worst fears have been realised. High fees will remain for the foreseeable future.

“What parents want and what I have been calling for is a mandatory national fee structure, led by the Department, and introduced immediately with a clear pathway to compulsory incremental fee reduction.

"Sinn Féin would deliver this."

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Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has said the education minister must revisit her approach to managing COVID in schools and has said that air filtration and proper ventilation is key to ensuring our schools can remain open safely in the time ahead.

The West Belfast MLA said:

"In recent weeks schools have come under significant pressure due to rising COVID cases and staff and pupil absences.

"The discovery of a new variant may also present new challenges so I would urge the Minister to revisit her approach to COVID in schools.

''High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters remove contaminants such as viruses from the air, reducing airborne transmission in classrooms with poor ventilation.

“It is clear that HEPA filtration is one of a number of mitigations which could help make our classrooms safer.

“The Minister has dithered and delayed on ventilation for too long. It is crunch time for our schools. I am calling on the Minister today, to act urgently to examine the provision of HEPA air filtration for all of our classrooms.

“The Minister keeps telling us she wants to keep schools open. We agree, but she has to be willing to do what it takes and that means HEPA filters in all of our classrooms, not just some of them. 

"Sinn Féin will continue to work to ensure the safety of our children and young people as well as our school staff." Críoch/Ends

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MacManus writes to trade Commission over Brexit issues facing potatoes sector following Meade Potato Company visit in Lobinstown
 
Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has written to European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis to raise the concerns of Irish potatoes growers. MacManus commented following a recent visit to the Meade Potato Company in Lobinstown, Co.Meath:
 
“EU Plant Health Regulation 2016/2031 prohibits the import of seed potatoes into EU member states from 3rd countries other than Switzerland. As Scotland is now a 3rd country, a consequence of this regulation is that imports of seed potatoes are now prohibited. This situation is obviously creating significant disruption in the previously unhindered trade.”
 
“My understanding is that the only way this can be rectified is by recognition of the UK’s phytosanitary standards as equivalent. To date, the British Government has refused the EU’s request to agree to the dynamic alignment of standards, in exchange for the equivalence recognition, and this had led to a stalemate in talks.”
 
MacManus pointed out the importance of seed importing from Scotland.
“While Ireland currently produces high quality seed potatoes, the Irish seed industry is not in a position, at present, to supply the entire national requirement.  In recent years, Britain, but mainly Scotland, has provided Ireland with the most significant proportion of the imported seed required.  Highly effective supply chains had developed, and the Irish market was supplied with the correct varieties in sufficient quantities, and of good quality. The impact of the breaking of this supply chain is expected to have dramatic consequences in 2022.”
 
“I made it clear to the Commissioner that everything must be done in the current talks to reach an immediate solution. Brexit is not of the EU’s making but it is within its remit to work effectively to protect EU agriculture, seeking solutions that protect the EU market while also ensuring viable trade.”
 
“Finally, I would like to thank Cliona Costello, Robert Devlin and Eleanor Meade of Meade Potato Company in Lobinstown, Co Meath, who brought the issue to my attention and showed me around their fantastic facility earlier this month.” ENDS
 
Pictured Are (L-R): Cllr Michael Gallagher, Eleanor Meade (Meade Potato Company), Chris MacManus MEP

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Sinn Féin MLA and Justice spokesperson Gerry Kelly. has welcomed the publication of the fourth report from the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC)  on tackling paramilitarism. 

Gerry Kelly said :     

"Today's report highlights the need for strong political leadership to tackle the risks posed to society by the continuing existence of paramilitary structures which could be harnessed for the purpose or threat of violence for political ends.

“This should sit alongside the sustained empowerment of communities impacted by the scourge of paramilitarism. This necessitates a holistic approach to dealing with paramilitarism that includes tackling key systemic socio-economic issues, like deprivation, poverty, educational under-achievement etc, through long-term investment.

“The report highlights the downward trend in shootings and bombings over the past ten years, with the exception of a general rise in cases of paramilitary type assaults, mostly by Loyalist paramilitaries. 

“It also recognises and commends the work of detached youth workers and community activists on the ground during disorder in interface areas last April and November.

“However, it also highlights the need to prioritise the establishment of a Centre of Excellence for Restorative Justice and the need to ‘reinvigorate’ work on ex-prisoner issues. 

“It calls for the long delayed amendments to existing legislation (Fair Employment and Treatment Order) to help remove barriers to employment for ex-prisoners in support of re-integration.

"A key recommendation from the report is the creation of a transition process for paramilitary groups, as distinct from individuals, with the objective of their disbandment. We look forward to engaging with the other parties and the Commission on this and other outstanding issues in a shared desire to finally  remove the scourge of paramilitarism.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has said that allocation of €70 million from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve to meat processors, while nothing has been provided to farmers, is "illustrative of where farmers stand in this government's warped priorities".

Initially announced last December, government have now confirmed the processors will receive funds under the Capital Investment Scheme for the Processing and Marketing Agricultural Products, while a remaining €30 million remains unallocated.

Teachta Carthy was speaking this week after the European Commission formally adopted the decision to allocate the funds.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said:

“It was the story of our farming families and fishermen that delivered for Ireland the allocation of a significant share of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve – but they have not yet seen any benefit. 

"Instead, the first allocation of funding to the Agri-Food sector has gone to multi-billionaire meat processors, long accused of squeezing every last inch of margin out of our primary producers.

"This is illustrative of where farmers stand in this government's warped priorities.

“For months I have been seeking information from the Department of Public Expenditure as to how this fund is to be allocated, to no avail.

“Yet meat processors have confirmation that they will receive significant BAR funds, while our farmers have no idea what, if any, supports will be available to them. 

"Bizarrely, the reported rationale is that Brexit has yet to impact on beef prices.

“The basis of the funding to processors is to allow them diversify – by the same logic it would be entirely appropriate to support our suckler farmers, or indeed fishermen.

“This ludicrous situation is compounded by the fact that these funds appear to have been provided to processors without any conditionality. It is unthinkable that this government would provide any funds to farmers or fishermen on such terms.

“Upon the original announcement of the Brexit Adjudgment Reserve funding, the calls from farmers included ring-fenced suckler funding; the establishment of an unfair trading practices enforcement authority; the resolution of issues arising from the BEAM scheme debacle; and the development of a suckler brand.

“To date, virtually no movement has been made in any of these areas. The government decision to allocate substantial funding from the reserve to processors before farmers sends a message that will be heard across every family farm.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children Kathleen Funchion TD has condemned the sudden and sharp price increase in childcare fees communicated to parents this week by Safari Creche in Clancy Quay, Dublin 8.

Teachta Funchion said:

“We know that parents in the Dublin area face the highest fees of any families throughout the country. Accessing childcare in the wider Dublin area is a constant battle of availability, long waiting lists, lack of choice and expensive.

“I am concerned that Safari Creches are consolidating their financial position in readiness for the new funding model to be introduced in 2022 that will effectively freeze fees.

“Parents have contacted my office in droves pleading for help. They say they cannot afford the unexplained 20% price hike – this is against the backdrop of continued EWSS subsidies for the sector until at least the end of April 2022.

“I have been told by more than one parent that their childcare fees for one child in full-time care is currently €869 but will jump to a staggering €1,085 and this is after the NCS contribution is deducted.

“Creating further stress and anxiety for parents is the unexplained manner in which their fees have so dramatically increased, with no cost breakdown or discussion with parents of when their services will return to normal pre-covid operating hours.

“I warned at the time that parents were being lulled into a false sense of security with the government's announcements during Budget 2022. It was clear that high fees would remain a significant issue for many families, and it gives me no joy to be proven right.

“So serious is this issue that I have written to the Minister to ask him to personally intervene and seek clarification from Safari on the manner, to explain their reasoning behind this price hike, and to seek a reversal of their decision.

“I strongly believe that there is an alternative for our childcare and early years sector, and I will continue to advocate and push the government to keep this issue top of the political agenda and move Ireland to a fully publicly funded model.”

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There are 9,332 children waiting for physiotherapy appointments, with 1,827 of these children waiting over a year, according to figures released by the HSE to Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health Mark Ward TD.

Teachta Ward said:

“Any delay in treatment for children will have a detrimental impact for them reaching their full potential and developmental milestones.

“There are 9,332 children waiting for physiotherapy appointments, with 1,827 of these children waiting over a year, according to figures released to me by the HSE.

“Physiotherapists can help children, particularly those with disabilities, to improve movement and function in the body; addressing problems with muscles, bones or the nervous system. But it is vitally important that children access this treatment in a timely manner.

“1,827 children waiting over a year is unacceptable; 606 of these children are under the age of give.

“There is also an element of postcode services here. Depending where you live, you may get a different level of treatment.

“CHO Area 8, which serves Laois/Offaly, Longford/Westmeath and Louth/Meath, has a waiting list of 2,228 children, while CHO Area 6, which serves Wicklow, Dún Laoghaire and Dublin South East, has 316 children waiting on physiotherapy

“In my own area of Dublin Mid West, there are 744 children waiting on this vital treatment.

“We need the government to act on this, and provide a unity of service across the state so that children can access the care they need, when they need it and where they need it.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called on the government to honour its commitment to deliver a recognition bonus for frontline health and social care workers before Christmas. He will be raising this matter this week with the Taoiseach under Questions on Promised Legislation.

Teachta Cullinane said that frontline health and social care workers have been ‘through the wars’ between the pandemic and the usual winter chaos in our hospitals. He added that they are beyond burnout, and suffering from moral distress yet continue to work tirelessly to save lives.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“In the last few months, the government has made a lot of noise talking up the prospect of a pandemic bonus for frontline health and social care workers.

“Commitments were made by the Taoiseach in June and more recently by the Tánaiste that such a payment would be brought forward without delay.

“It was hoped to be delivered in the budget, but it wasn’t. It was hoped that it would be delivered soon after the budget, yet we still have no clarity.

“Minister McGrath stated that this needed to be resolved before the end of the year, which is fast approaching. There are only two weeks before the Dáil rises for recess and no proposal is on the table.

“Our frontline health and social care workers have been through the wars and are working flat out to keep the health system running under severe pressure from covid and emergency care.

“They are beyond burnout and the current circumstances are presenting serious difficulties for them and causing acute moral distress. They are unable to take breaks or sick leave without an immense sense of guilt. That is fundamentally unfair.

“The government must honour its commitments and deliver a recognition bonus for the monumental sacrifices made by our doctors, nurses, and allied health and social care professionals before Christmas.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Áine Murphy has welcomed approval for a new state-of-the-art health care centre in Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh. 

Speaking after the business case was signed off, the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said: 

“I’m delighted that the business case for the new health care centre in Lisnaskea has now been signed off by the Health Minister. 

“I also welcome the commitment from the Finance Minister Conor Murphy that the funding is secured for this £18.5 million project. 

“Since becoming an MLA, making progress on this health centre has been a priority to deliver first-class services for the people of Lisnaskea. 

“I will continue working to ensure this centre is now delivered without any more delay for the benefit of everyone in the local area.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan has urged Dublin City Council to take action to address the ongoing staffing crisis in Dublin Fire Brigade.

Cllr. Daithí Doolan said:

"Dublin Fire Brigade's staffing crisis is felt right across the Dublin region. The staffing shortages has affected the functioning of fire stations, fire engines and the river rescue service right across the capital. 

"I raised the issue at tonight's Dublin City Council meeting. I asked the manager for an update on progress made since September in addressing the staffing crisis. The written response I received was shocking.

“No progress has been made. Dublin Fire Brigade continues to be understaffed. This puts the lives of staff and the public at risk. This is unacceptable.

"Both management and unions agree that over 1,000 personnel are required to fully cover the service. There are currently only 965 personnel in place. 

"City Council management must employ and train those waiting on the staff panel and need to immediately start recruiting as a matter of urgency to meet the demands of a modern fire service." 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD, has said that there is a need for clear guidance for employers as we move into another severe weather event; with red weather warnings in place for numerous counties.   

She said that the need to protect workers during extreme weather events is paramount.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

"In the event of a severe weather warning, there is a need for clear guidance from government as to what should and should not remain open. 

“This has started to happen in respect of State services, but employees and employers in the private sector are unclear as to their rights and their obligations. 

"During previous severe weather events we have seen non-essential workers being told to turn up for work without due regard for the potential risks. 

“On this occasion, we have again learned of a number of employers who are intent on their employees showing up for work tomorrow; in counties where status red warnings are in place. This will not be a lengthy storm and most employers will apply common sense, but guidance from government should be in place.

“We should not be in this space.

“Sinn Féin previously introduced the Extreme Weather (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2018; which was rejected by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

"The government must now issue clear guidance that non-essential workplaces in status red areas should close tomorrow.”

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Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly has urged TDs to back his motion in the Dáil tomorrow to fully resource Dublin Fire Brigade.

His comments follow a meeting with shop stewards and fire service workers today, to discuss their concerns about conditions and resources within the fire brigade.

Speaking today, Teachta Donnelly said:

"Today I met with Dublin Firefighters and their union representatives to discuss the importance of ensuring Dublin Fire Brigade is fit for purpose.

"I thanked them for their invaluable service in saving lives and protecting communities across Dublin every day.

"Workers expressed concerns about the lack of personnel in the Dublin fire service and the condition and age of the existing fire equipment. Just last week there were 4 fire engines off the road and no reserve appliances available. 

"They also raised the serious ongoing issue of the condition of the fire stations themselves with a newly upgraded station promised for North Strand 13 years ago that has still not come on stream. 

“Workers are also fearful that ongoing staff shortages may have an impact on the service of the DFB ambulance.

"It is clear that the government must step in urgently to address these concerns and ensure Dublin Fire Brigade is fit for purpose.

“My motion would compel the government to do exactly that. It addresses these issues of staff shortages and lack of resources.

“I am calling on all TDs to back my motion tomorrow to ensure a fully resourced Dublin Fire Brigade. It’s time to support our communities and support our fire services.”

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“High input prices makes case for sustainable solutions” – MacManus visits Monaghan sustainable farm
 
Following a visit to Siolta Chroi organic farm near Carrickmacross, Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has said that he believes we should take rising input costs as the impetus to change our production methods, to a more sustainable model. MacManus commented:
 
“Fertiliser prices are up over 30% and energy prices are up 22%, since September 2020. These  increases are outside a farmers control, but have a big impact on their overall cost of production.”
 
“Taking fertiliser firstly, Teagasc advices a number of ways to reduce costs, such as replacing the first application with water slurry or the implementation of white clover. On some dairy farms, white clover has resulted in savings between €2,000 and €4,000. “
 
“On the energy side, microgeneration on farms needs finalisation. Farms could be producing their own energy and selling surpluses back to the grid. You are really talking about micro-solar PV, micro-hydro, micro-wind and micro-renewable CHP. In 2018, Ireland ranked 23rd out of the EU-27 countries for renewable energy from agriculture, producing just 2.6% compared with the EU-27 average of 12.1%. “
 
“It is evident that the solutions are there and it makes economic sense to make the transition now. What farmers need is strong leadership from this government. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the Micro-generation Support Scheme to be opened. “
 
“This government must understand that every delay, in times of high prices, means farmers being pushed closer to a cliff edge.” 
 
“In no other economic sector would it be common that only one third of enterprises are considered viable. Sinn Féin is committed reversing the tide on farm viability and transforming our family farm production model into the most environmentally and economically sustainable in the world.” 
 
MacManus concluded with a word of praise for the team at Siolta Croi, What Gareth, Karen and Conan have created here is a shining example of how we can create sustainable organic farming models across the island. We must support farms like this. It was a really interesting visit and I’d like to thank them for their warm hospitality.” ENDS
 
Pictured below from Left to Right Chris MacManus MEP & Cllr. Cathy Bennett with Conan Connolly, Garth Conlon and Karen Jeffares of Siolta Chroi 

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has welcomed a statement by the Irish Government to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers criticising the British government’s approach to dealing with the legacy of the past. 

Speaking following the publication of the statement the North Belfast MLA said: 

"The Irish Government has again expressed its profound regret at the indifference and total failure of the British government to facilitate independent investigations. 

"The statement was also critical of the British government’s policy intent to close down any legal remedies for families by way of legacy inquests and civil actions.

"They also note the British government’s intent to bin the Stormont House Agreement and replace it with a mechanism to prioritise information recovery and reconciliation. This is unacceptable and a clear breach of their international human rights obligations. 

"The statement expressed frustration at the lack of progress in the Pat Finucane murder case and shoot to kill cases involving British state forces. 

"Victims of the conflict and their families cannot be denied access to the courts in pursuit of truth and justice.   

"Sinn Féin will continue to press for the implementation of the Stormont House legacy mechanisms in a human rights compliant manner.” 

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MEP MacManus meets with Mica & Pyrite Campaigners in Brussels
 
The Sinn Féin MEP tells the Euro Parliament “the buck has to stop somewhere”
 
Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus met with Mica and Pyrite campaigners from both the West and Northwest in the European Parliament in Brussels this week. The Midlands Northwest MEP also spoke in support of the campaigners from the Parliament floor. 
 
The Mica and Pyrite campaigners were addressing the Parliament’s Petitions Committee seeking the EU Institutions to play an active role in the scandal. The campaigners attended at the invitation of The Left Group working through MEP Luke Flanagan’s office. Both MEPs MacManus and Flanagan are members of The Left Group.
 
MacManus said:
 
“This has been going on for over a decade and rightly they (the campaigners) feel they have effectively been ignored by successive governments until only recent months, when they took to take to the streets in their thousands.”
 
MacManus who has previously visited affected homes spoke of the “trauma” felt by victims of the scandal and the subsequent government negligence. 
 
“Thousands of households have lived with this burden and it's not only the potential financial burden. It's the mental trauma of waking up day after day not knowing if part of your house is going to be there. Not knowing if the crack has widened, if a slab has fallen off the wall so to that extent we have a duty as legislators where there are gaps in national legislation for us to be able to hold those national governments to account.”
 
MacManus spoke of a historic neglect that led to the current crisis.
 
“The Mica & Pyrite issue is a legacy of the light touch regulation that came into effect during the relentless house building years of the Celtic tiger.”
 
MacManus who has previously questioned the EU Commission on the Product Liability Directive and the Consumer Sales Guarantees Directive said, “ They acknowledge the rights of consumers, in this case citizens from the West and Northwest of Ireland to be protected.”
 
The Midlands Northwest MEP added in his parliamentary contribution,  “Now it's obvious with the scale of what we're talking about, It cannot be done by the producer of the materials concerned.  So the buck has to stop somewhere and I'm glad to see that our MEP colleagues here are willing to leave the petition opened, because the people of the community I represent, the West and the Northwest need to see that we are on the side of the citizen”.
 
MacManus also met with the campaigners on the day for further talks. Following the meeting he said. “Both myself and my colleague in The Left Group MEP Flanagan met with the campaigners today. Nobody should have to go through what these people are suffering. It's a disgrace. The government must listen. Sinn Féin have stood with these campaigners along their course and we will continue to do so until they find justice and that is 100% Redress, No less!” ENDS 

 
[Picture L/R: Loren Devers (Mayo), Eileen Doherty (Donegal), Luke Flanagan MEP, Ann Owens (Donegal), Chris MacManus MEP, Mary Regan (Mayo), Eamon Jackson (Donegal)

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Marking the centenary of the signing of the treaty, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said "a new and United Ireland is within sight" and that we will "see the ending of partition and the unification of all of our people, in our time".

Ms McDonald said:

"The treaty brought about the British government’s disastrous partition of Ireland. It was forced upon Ireland under the British threat of an immediate and terrible war. 

"It led to a sectarian state in the six counties and a deeply conservative state in the 26 Counties. It was a far cry from the vision set out by republican leaders in the Proclamation of 1916.

"A century on, the politics of partition have come full circle. We are living in the end days of partition. People are looking to the future.

"We can right the wrongs of the treaty by building a new and united Ireland, a home to all of our people regardless of background or identity.

"We are on the threshold of writing the next chapter of Irish history.  We need to begin to prepare for the reunification of Ireland.

“This includes both governments. The Irish government must take the lead and become persuaders rather than by-standers in the Unity conversation. 

"While the British government cannot continue with its damaging policy of resisting the appetite for real and positive change in Ireland. 

“There is an immediate need to convene a Citizens' Assembly to actively discuss and plan for constitutional change.

"The politics of division belongs to the past. This generation, from all backgrounds, is determined to move forward.

"The opportunities of Irish Unity for our people are immense. This is a moment of great optimism and excitement.

"This is our moment. A moment that belongs to everyone who calls this island home. Let's seize it together and for each other."

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Sinn Fein’s spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has called for the government to ensure clarity is provided regarding access to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

Ahead of tomorrow’s reopening of the PUP as announced by the government last Friday evening, there is urgent need for clear communication on which workers affected by the most recent public health guidelines will be eligible for the payment.

As well as this, Minister Humphreys has announced today that there will be five rates of the payment available, with the highest rate of €350 retuning for workers earning over €400 per week, as well as a new rate of €150.

Speaking on the issue, Teachta Kerrane said:

“I absolutely welcome the reopening of the PUP for workers who are impacted by the announcement of extended public health guidelines on Friday evening.

“It is crucial that workers have access to financial supports when they cannot go to work through no fault of their own.

“I called on the Minister to consider this as soon as changes to guidelines were announced a few weeks ago. I am glad she has seen sense on the issue - albeit at the very last minute, yet again.

“Families and workers were left wondering where next week’s income will come from should they be unable to go to work due to Covid-related guidelines.

“Sinn Féin have repeatedly said that the PUP should be available whilst it is needed. We have not emerged from the pandemic yet, but the government has been too quick to wind up financial supports, despite them evidently being needed.

“The reopening of the PUP to applicants is positive and we welcome the move to make €350 available again for some workers who are impacted by the most recent announcements.

“We have advocated for payment linked to prior earnings, in order to ensure households do not fall off a financial cliff amidst changing public health guidelines.

“However, it is also important to recognise that a wider group of workers have been affected by since mid-November, when the public health advice prompted people to reduce their socialising, cancel children's activities and Christmas parties, amongst other recommendations.

“That group of workers was simultaneously hit by planned cuts to the PUP scheme, which the government refused to halt at the time.

“As well as this, the various cuts to the PUP since September mean that households now don’t know if they will be eligible for the payment and how long will receive it.  

“The devil is in the detail, and we need to know more regarding the reopening of applications to the PUP.

“The Minister indicated that she will review the availability of the PUP as the situation progresses. Yet, she and the government proceeded with cuts to the PUP just weeks ago.

“As we approach Christmas, the last thing families and workers need is further financial stress around how they will buy groceries and pay the bills.

“Clear communication and ease of access to available supports is urgently needed. There is no time to waste and the government must get this right.”

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