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Sinn Féin Councillor Nichola Bradley has called for statutory agencies to work to provide maximum support for those suffering from mental illness. 

The Oldpark Councillor said:

“This afternoon, I was made aware of an incident involving a distressed male in the Oldpark area.

“I attended the scene and established immediate contact with the police to offer the support and assistance of the local community.

“There is an obligation on all agencies to work in partnership to provide maximum support and assistance to people that are in mental distress.

“My thoughts are with the young man’s family and I hope that he makes a full recovery.”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has extended the condolences of the party to the Willis family following the tragic death of Michael Willis in Donegal.

The West Belfast MP said:

“The community of West Belfast was heartbroken to learn of the loss of Michael Willis following a tragic accident in Donegal.

“The Willis family are a well known and respected Republican family in the Colin area, with Michael’s mother Veronica having been a Sinn Féin Councillor.

“The community of the Colin and West Belfast will rally around the Willis family to offer whatever support we can to assist them at this time of great difficulty.

“On behalf of Sinn Féin, I would like to extend condolences to Michael’s mother Veronica, his father Michael and all the Willis family.

"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis."  

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Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew has called on the British government to bring forward support for workers and businesses forced to reclose as a result of Covid19. 

The Party’s Health Spokesperson said: 

“The British government must bring forward a package to support workers and local businesses who have been forced to close their doors again as a result of Covid19.

“I know of local business-people who have had to close over the weekend to self-isolate while awaiting Covid19 test results.

“Local businesses are already at a cliff-edge and this only places more strain with a loss of income during the high streets busiest time. Support must be brought forward now.

“The furlough scheme has been a lifeline for workers and families over the last six months and has protected tens of thousands of jobs in the north. It must be extended.”

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Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney calling on the government to welcome and support the recent conference held in Ramallah and Beirut involving all the main Palestinian political forces aimed at bringing about a new unified initiative. 

She said:

"I have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister asking that the Irish government acknowledge, welcome and support the recent significant and major development in Palestine which has brought together all the main Palestinian forces and political parties in a unified approach to their plight. 

"Sinn Féin believes this offers the greatest potential to bring about a comprehensive peace agreement in the region based on the legitimate national and human rights of all Palestinians.

"I have also called on the Irish government to recognise the State of Palestine, and to use its position and influence in the European Council to: 

  • Call for an end to the siege of Gaza;
  • Propose that sanctions be imposed on the Israeli government in the event of the annexation of large parts of Palestinian land, and;
  • Demand that Israel ends the expansion of illegal settlements and the ongoing occupation of Palestine.

"The people of Palestine need international support. They also need international action. Ongoing Israeli violations of international law and universal rights conventions must be exposed, condemned and effectively responded to.

"The Irish government should play a positive role in this process, ensuring a permanent, credible and just peace is created in the Middle East."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has commented this evening on the announcement by the ASTI that they are to ballot their members for industrial action.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

"The issues that the ASTI have raised are issues that can and must be resolved. Sinn Féin identified the need to apply effective social distancing and protect school staff at high-risk as key priorities in a document we submitted to the Department of Education two weeks ago called 'Keeping Schools Open'.

"We proposed an audit of school buildings to identify schools under the most pressure to achieve social distancing and proposed a fund for schools to build, acquire modular units, or rent space to reduce the pupil teacher ratio. The fact is that reopening schools safely has been challenging because we have an education system that is overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed.

"We have also raised the issue of high-risk staff. It is unconscionable that teachers who are at high-risk or who have relatives at home who are high-risk are being forced to work in an environment in which they do not feel safe. There are solutions to be found. 

"We also agree that the unequal pay rates between teachers is unacceptable and unsustainable.

"These issues have been on the agenda for weeks now. It is unacceptable that the Department of Education has allowed things to get to this point; with the ASTI now seeing no alternative but to ballot their members for industrial action.

"I absolutely believe that a strike can be avoided, but the government now needs to take action. They need to engage urgently with the ASTI and other school staff unions (INTO, TUI and Fórsa) to address the issues that have been raised."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers’ Rights Louise O’Reilly TD has said that increased supports need to be provided for workers affected by new Covid-19 restrictions in Dublin city and county.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Many workers and businesses in Dublin city and county got the devastating news last night that they would not be able to work or operate as a result of public health measures introduced to curtail the spread of Covid-19.

“The implementation of these restrictions has meant that workers in some sectors are today without work and could be for the next three weeks.

“Due to the mean spirited decision of the government to cut the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) this week, some of these workers could be left in a perilous situation until restrictions are lifted.

“Sinn Féin has consistently called for the PUP to remain at €350 per week for all those whose employment was affected by Covid-19 until the end of 2020, and with these affected workers in mind it is now more important than ever for the government to reinstate the €350 rate.

“We must remember that all workers in receipt of the PUP are accessing this payment because their workplace has been shut down through no fault of their own because of Covid-19, and they deserve fair treatment and the full support of the State.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Magennis and Orlaithi Flynn MLA have contacted the PSNI to raise concerns over an incident in the Colin Area.

The Colin Councillor said:

“This morning I was contacted by a local family following an incident involving the PSNI at a family communion event in the Colin Area of West Belfast.

“The family have raised concerns over the conduct of the PSNI which resulted in a disabled man being hospitalised and pepper spray allegedly being used.

“Footage provided to Sinn Féin representatives shows the PSNI physically restraining some of those at the party.

“Myself and Sinn Féin MLA Orlaithí Flynn will be seeking an urgent meeting with the local PSNI District Commander to raise questions over the conduct of officers.

“Órlaithí Flynn MLA will also be engaging with Sinn Féin policing representative Gerry Kelly to raise this incident at the Policing Board.

“Sinn Féin will remain in close contact with the family and ensure that their concerns are heard and that questions are answered.”  

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Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has written to the leaders of the main political parties at Westminster to outline the huge damage the British government's Internal Market Bill would do to the Good Friday Agreement.

The Sinn Féin Brexit spokesperson said:

"The British government have been blatant in their intention to break international law by attempting to tear up the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and Irish Protocol through the Internal Market Bill.

"Not only would passage of this bill break international law, it would also drive a coach and horses through another internationally binding agreement, the Good Friday Agreement.

"The bill would give the British government the power to unilaterally impose its rules and regulations on the Assembly, regardless of the views of the democratically elected MLAs and ministers in the Executive. This is a clear deviation from the Good Friday Agreement and the political institutions it created.

"It includes clauses that would give the British government powers to compel the Executive and Assembly to accept lower environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards, jeopardising our local agri-food industry and leaving the Executive powerless to act.

"It would also create an unelected quango with the ability to challenge the democratically elected devolved Assemblies.

"Crucially, it would undermine the all-Ireland aspects of the Good Friday Agreement as it completely sidelines north-south cooperation. This was a key element of the Good Friday Agreement for nationalists and republicans and cannot be set aside at will by the British government.

"I have now written to the leaders of the main political parties at Westminster flagging up the main breaches of the Good Friday Agreement arising out of the Internal Market Bill. It is important they understand the ramifications of this proposed legislation for the north of Ireland, relations on the island of Ireland and relations across these islands.

"The British government and British parliament cannot simply be allowed to undermine and hollow out the Good Friday Agreement and the decades of progress which has resulted from it."

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Sinn Féin MLA Emma Rogan has urged the public to avoid Ardglass Harbour due to an ongoing security alert which has seen the area evacuated this morning.

The South Down MLA said:

“There is an ongoing security alert at Ardglass Harbour today after a fishing boat brought in what is believed to be British munitions from the Irish sea.

“This is totally unacceptable and yet again this has placed our local coastal communities in danger and caused huge disruption to people's lives.

“The harbour has been evacuated and is currently cordoned off while investigations are underway, and I would urge the public to avoid the area this afternoon.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and Minister in the Executive Office, Declan Kearney has said it is essential that the whole community in the Crumlin and Glenavy areas pulls together in observing restrictions to reduce the growing numbers of positive cases of Covid-19.

The South Antrim MLA said:

“We are now halfway through the period of local restrictions introduced to help stem the rise in Covid-19 transmission across the BT28 and BT29 areas of South Antrim.

“The need for these new localised restrictions reflects the growing incidence of positive cases in the affected areas during recent weeks. It is therefore absolutely essential that the entire community pulls together to cooperate with and support all the relevant agencies working to reduce the ever-present threat of Covid-19 in our midst.

“I have been monitoring the local situation, and reports shared with me by business people and community leaders, as well as feedback from relevant agencies, indicate that not everyone is acting to effectively reduce the speed of virus transmission.

“This trend must be reversed if we are to avoid a continuation of restrictions beyond the immediate period, or another introduction of further restrictions.

“A particular responsibility rests with local retail and licensed premises to follow the existing regulations and guidelines in order to provide a safe environment for protection of their staff and the general public.

“I commend those citizens who have been acting with great responsibility, I am appealing for everyone to exercise caution and adhere to the health advice and the regulations and guidance in place.

“While most young people are playing their part in trying to halt the spread of the virus it is very worrying that sizeable numbers of them continue to gather in certain locations with no social distancing. This is putting themselves and their families at risk and threatening to undermine the efforts of the rest of the community. 

“On Friday I spoke with the PSNI district commanders with responsibility for BT29 and BT28 and requested that police bring specific focus to those premises and settings where there is evidence of regulations being breached, and, or a failure to observe guidance.

“In the meantime, everyone should also continue to practice regular hand washing, the wearing of face coverings and maintain social distancing. These measures remain essential behaviours in this critical period.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins has raised deep concern at a sharp rise in Covid19 cases among health staff and further deaths at Daisy Hill Hospital.

The Newry/Armagh MLA said:

“I am deeply concerned that over 20 staff in the male medical ward at Daisy Hill hospital have now tested positive with Covid19 and sadly another three people have died.

“I extend my sympathies to the families of those who have died and wish those who are ill or self-isolating a speedy recovery.

“Since the outbreak last week, we have been highlighting the failure to test staff working at Daisy Hill and there is now a sharp rise in cases.

“I have raised the issue of testing with both the Health Minister and the Chief Executive and urged them to make testing available to workers.

“While workers are now being tested, this cannot happen again. Our health workers are fighting the virus on the frontline and should be protected.

“Visiting at the hospital remains paused and I would urge people to keep following the public health advice to stop the spread of Covid19.”

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West Belfast MP Paul Maskey led a Sinn Féin delegation to meet with Communities Minister Carál Ni Chuilin on the Casement Park project today. 


The West Belfast MP said;

“Sinn Féin remain fully committed to ensuring West Belfast has a new state of the art Casement Park to showcase Gaelic games and for the use of the local community.

“The delivery of a redeveloped Casement Park remains a key priority for Sinn Féin.

“Today’s meeting with Communities Minister Carál Ni Chuilin was extremely positive and it was very welcome that the minister has reaffirmed her commitment to redevelopment of Casement Park.

“Gaels in Belfast and Antrim have waited too long already for the project. They should not have to wait any longer.


“Casement Park remains the last piece of sports stadia project not to be delivered, we need to see movement on this immediately and this starts with the Minister for Infrastructure making a decision on the current planning permission." 

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Pearse DohertySinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has today written to the Minister for Finance and the CEOs of the five retail banks calling for an extension of payment breaks for borrowers impacted by Covid-19.

Speaking today, the Donegal TD warned that unless these payment breaks are extended before the end of September, tens of thousands of borrowers risk falling into distressed debt in the coming weeks under European Banking Authority rules.

Teachta Doherty said: “This morning I have written to the Minister for Finance and the CEOs of the five retail banks requesting that a further extension is granted to borrowers who have taken Covid-19 payment breaks.

“Figures published this week by the Central Bank show that 74,000 mortgage payment breaks have been granted by the five retail banks since the outbreak of Covid-19.

“Banks and lenders provided a three-month payment break with the option of a further three-month extension without the risk of falling into default under emergency guidelines introduced by the European Banking Authority (EBA) in March.

“The Banking and Payments Federation say that 37,000 of these borrowers are already on the three-month extension with their breaks due to end in the coming weeks.

“With unemployment remaining high and cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment yesterday, many of these households will be unable to resume their mortgage repayments.

“The situation is no less grave for small businesses, many of whom now face further restrictions in the days ahead.

“In short, we are facing a mortgage arrears crisis.

“Unless a further extension to these payment breaks is granted before September 30th, these borrowers will fall into default under the EBA rules if they cannot meet their full capital and interest repayments.

“In Germany, mortgage breaks have been extended until the end of 2020, and for 12 months in Spain and Italy.

“This virus, and its impact on jobs and income, will be with us for some time.

“To avoid an otherwise certain debt crisis, the government and banking sector must now extend payment breaks for Covid-impacted borrowers immediately, without additional interest accruing during the period of the break.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Emma Rogan has welcomed the announcement from the Infrastructure Minister that the opening of a 'park and ride' facility in Downpatrick will be a priority. 

The South Down MLA said:  

“Sinn Féin and the local community have been calling for a park and ride facility in Downpatrick for some time. 

“I welcome that the Infrastructure Minister has today confirmed a 'park and ride' facility in Downpatrick will now be progressed as a priority.  

“The 'park and ride' facility will be invaluable for the people of Downpatrick and the surrounding area. It would make it easier for people to make public transport their first choice for travel as we seek to decarbonise transport as part of our overall efforts to tackle the climate emergency.”  

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Sinn Fein spokesperson on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing, Thomas Gould TD, has today called on Taoiseach Michael Martin to clarify his comments that "the health authorities are against residential type addiction centres”.

Teachta Gould said:

“The Taoiseach’s comments today were extremely surprising given that the National Drugs Strategy recognises that, while most young people can be treated in the community, some need more ‘specialised services’ such as residential treatment.

“I would ask that he clarify when the decision was made by the Health Authorities to oppose residential treatment, who made this decision and why it does not appear to feed into policy or practice with the National Drugs Strategy, outlining that ‘HSE funding has also resulted in an increased number of residential addiction beds’.

“This government have already shown a serious disregard for people in recovery. The delay and confusion surrounding Recovery Support meetings, such as AA, and the failure of the Minister to, to date, address my concerns in relation to progress made on the Action Plan 2017-2020 in 2019.

"I would ask that the Taoiseach immediately recognises the stigma already surrounding those accessing residential treatment and the impact his comments will have on compounding this.

“We are about to lose 6 adolescents beds for residential treatment. This will be a significant loss to an already struggling and underfunded system. The Taoiseach needs to step up, clarify his comments and replace these beds immediately.”

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Sinn Féin Party Group Leader on Belfast City Council Ciaran Beattie has called on political parties to place efforts into reconciliation as opposed to divisive events.

Councillor Beattie said:

“This morning, the Alliance Party and DUP united in the Strategic Policy and Resource Committee to support a bid bringing ‘National Armed Forces Day’ to Belfast in 2022.

“This was unsuccessful”

“The hosting of this event is of no benefit to our city, it will compound the hurt of victims of British armed forces and cause division amongst citizens of Belfast.

“The role of the British army in Belfast and across Ireland is not one of glory, but one of brutality and oppression.

“This bid also comes at a time when nations across the globe are reflecting on their colonial past and the horrific injustices inflected upon citizens by the British army.

“Belfast City Centre is a neutral space - all sections of our community enjoy the shops, hospitality and entertainment on offer.

“The hosting of Armed Forces Day would undoubtedly politicise a neutral space.

“There is an obligation on all political representatives to act responsibly and to place their focus into peace building and reconciliation.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Jemma Dolan has today called for immediate action throughout society and in government to tackle pay discrimination against women. 

Speaking on International Equal Pay Day, the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA reiterated the party’s commitment to removing barriers and creating greater equality for women in the workplace. 

Jemma Dolan said: 

“The 2020 Women in Work index confirmed that there is a 16 percent pay gap between men and women in the private sector.  

“The gender pay gap is a critical indicator of gender inequality which is still rife across our society. 

“This is a frontline equality issue, and one of many financial barriers faced by women in the world of work. 

“Sinn Féin will be bringing forward proposals to help tackle the gender pay gap and the inclusion of women in the workplace. 

“I have written to the Executive seeking an update on what progress has been made to implement the regulations that govern the publication of gender pay gap information.  

“A key cause of the pay gap is that women often struggle to stay in full-time work due to care and family commitments, this can lead them to only seeking part-time work which inevitably impacts on their income. 

“Sinn Féin is committed to tackling the barriers, which affect female workers and workers in general and we are committed to bringing forward proposals that will give workers a break across our island.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has today launched a survey on Household Debt. 

Teachta Kerrane said: “Over the last seven months, many people right across the State have lost their jobs and faced a sudden wipe-out of their income. Thousands have been laid off temporarily and placed on an income below what they were earning pre-Covid. 

“Households have seen their energy bills soar as they spend more time at home than usual. Supports introduced since Covid hit, such as the so-called ‘mortgage holiday’, did nothing but increase mortgage costs for families. 

“Workers and families have been under immense pressure and where they might have just been managing to get by before Covid, they are struggling now in an unprecedented way. 

“Before we ever heard of Covid, Ireland had the fifth highest household debt in the EU. Yet, this has never been tackled by Government. It isn’t even talked about. 

“We need to put household debt on the agenda and ensure that it gets the serious attention that it deserves. 

“My Household Debt survey seeks to establish the reality of household debt in Ireland, how it impacts on peoples lives and what needs to change to give people the support they need. 

“We need to support workers and families at this crucial time. Some may be struggling with day-to-day costs for the very first time. For others, life was already a financial struggle prior to Covid and the pandemic has only made it even harder. 

“I am asking people to take part in my Household Debt survey so we can ascertain the true level of household debt and establish what needs to happen to address this.”

Note:

The survey is available to view online by clicking this link
 

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Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has raised concerns following reports that teachers who would be marked as close contacts by the HSE Covid Tracker app are now having that status removed by the Department of Health, and not being advised to isolate or seek testing.
 
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“This is very concerning news. Whilst it is important that schools are open, an essential part of keeping them open is safeguarding the safety of school staff.
 
"Teachers are just as susceptible to Covid-19 as any other user of the Covid tracker app.
 
"One would question the value of the HSE tracking app in the first instance, if its advice is disregarded so bluntly. If anything, it undermines the importance of the ‘close contacts’ notification, as the Department are telling certain cohorts of the public to ignore the app’s advice.
 
"We need an explanation here. It cannot be that there is one rule for the general public, and another rule for teachers. Surely, a close contact is a close contact, regardless of profession. It is completely unfair to have lower standards for school staff.
 
"Teachers, secretaries, SNAs, caretakers and all school staff have worked tirelessly across the country in the past weeks and months to ensure that kids could get back into the classroom. The Government must now show their thanks, by properly ensuring the safety of all school staff.
 
"I have raised this today with the Ministers for Education and Health, seeking an explanation on how this came to pass."

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has called for the Home Office to reverse a decision which has led to a young asylum seeker from north Belfast being denied a university place. 

The North Belfast MP said:  

“Arezki Yachir came to Belfast in 2014 and has excelled in education – achieving two A* grades and an A grade in his A-level results. 

“He has lived here for four years and views the North as home,  but upon turning 18 Arezki was refused asylum seeker status, a decision he is now appealing.

 “As a consequence, the Home Office have advised the Education Authority against permitting Arezki financial assistance for third level education. 

“I have spoken with the family and their solicitor over recent days to offer my support in anyway that I can. 

“I have also contacted Queen's University to ask that they show leadership, and in the absence of financial support from the EA, provide the necessary financial support to allow Arezki to continue along his academic path.

“The decision by the Home Office not to permit asylum seeker status to Arezki is wrong and they must reverse this decision.

“Arzeki and the Yachir family were forced to flee Algeria due to threats on their life – there is an obligation on us all to provide them with the maximum support in their new home."

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