Cllr Pearse McGeough – Time to talk about a United Ireland

Pearse McGeoughSinn Féin this week launched an important new discussion document on Irish unity.

Councillor Pearse McGeough, speaking today, said “Brexit opens up a unique opportunity to look again at the idea of unity. A united Ireland makes sense in terms of the economy, public services, investment, exports, agriculture, policing and justice and sport.”

“There are no advantages for a small island of just over six million people in having two separate tax systems, legal systems, and competing economic development programmes. Removing barriers to trade, created by the border will lead to significant economic growth across the island.”

The discussion document launched by Sinn Féin this week entitled ‘Towards a United Ireland’ outlines the case for unity.

Cllr McGeough explained “Sinn Féin wants to see a new Ireland where citizens have the right to a job, to a home, and a decent standard of education. A new, united Ireland must deliver new politics and fundamentally change the political status quo North and South.

“There will be a need for a new Constitution and Bill of Rights, and there may need to be constitutional and political safeguards for the unique identity of Northern unionists. The Good Friday Agreement provides for peaceful and democratic constitutional change through concurrent referendums North and South.

“Securing a referendum on Irish unity would be an historic opportunity for all the people of Ireland, allowing us to vote for the kind of government and society we wish to see.

“Sinn Féin has called for a Unity Poll and we are seeking an informed, reasoned and respectful dialogue on the issue. Now is the time to plan and to build the maximum support for unity. The leadership of those political parties which say they support Irish unity, acting together, could provide the leadership to deliver it.

“I believe the Government should start preparing for unity by establishing an all-party group to bring forward a Green Paper for Unity. I also believe they could start now to develop a plan for an all-island National Health Service and give citizens of this country what they deserve.

“I hope everyone gives this discussion document careful consideration and I would like to see other parties and organizations putting forward their ideas on this important issue.”

To view the discussion document please go to www.sinnfein.ie

Cunningham Calls For ‘Safer Parking Bays’ for Campers to Boost Tourism & Economy

Tom CunninghamCounty Louth and the East of Ireland is consistently being touted as the place to go for those visiting or touring Ireland with its rich heritage and the launch of Ireland’s Ancient East programme aimed to attract tourists to the area.  Fáilte Ireland believe this initiative will increase the visitors to the area by 25% and has described the area as a ‘touring region’. Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Cunningham wants tourists to not only visit County Louth but to stay and spend their Euros and boost the local economy.

At November’s County Council meeting, the Clogherhead councillor asked for ‘serviced parking ’ for touring camper vans. Cllr Cunningham said “what this means is, if a camper van is touring the area they can go to one of these ‘serviced parking bays’ and hook up their van overnight. They would ‘pay as they go’ and it would be similar to the power point for electric cars in Ardee. It gives the tourist freedom to just plug in and charge up without having to return to a camp site. If we could provide these bays throughout the county along with fresh water facilities for camper vans it would boost our local economy and encourage others to visit the area. The bays would pay for themselves.”

Tom Cunningham explained how he has noticed “an increasing number of non-Irish registered Camper vans especially around Annagassan Harbour and Port Oriel in Clogherhead since before the summer months. These people should be encouraged to remain in the area and so need to be catered for and where better than our wee county for breath taking scenery and amazing hospitality.”

The County Louth Tourism and Heritage Action Plan states ‘we aim to encourage more visitors to the county by exploiting the benefits of Ireland’s Ancient east’ and Tom Cunningham believes these ‘safer parking bays’ is a means of doing just that.

Cllr Cunningham said “it also says in the Tourism and Heritage Action Plan that it is a priority to deliver a ‘better visitor experience’ and create a demand for tourists to return and why wouldn’t they want to return to County Louth? But we need to be prepared to cater for them and these bays are a very simple way to do this.”

The response from the Council was that there were already three static caravan parks and one touring caravan park in County Louth.

Cllr Cunningham said “there is no point in publishing Action Plans if we are not going to see them through. I am determined to encourage more tourists to the county and am determined to pursue this.”

Implement Children First Act – Adams

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has given a qualified welcome to the commitment by the Taoiseach today to examine the possibility of accelerating the full implementation of the Children’s First Act before the current deadline.

Teachta Adams raised the issue with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD today in the Dáil following the publication on Saturday in the Irish Times of a letter from Barnardo’s; the Children’s Rights Alliance; and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty.

Teachta Adams said:

“In their letter to the Irish Times Barnardo’s; the Children’s Rights Alliance; and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty expressed their concern at the delays by the government in commencing the Children’s First Act.

This Act was enacted this time last November. Among its provisions it provides for mandatory reporting by key professionals; mandated assisting; comprehensive risk assessment and preparation of Child Safeguarding Statements by services for children; and the establishment of a Children First Interdepartmental Implementation Group on a statutory basis.

The children’s rights groups are concerned that only three sections of the Children’s First have commenced. In a recent Dáil response the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone admitted that the full commencement of the Act will not occur until the end of February 2018. Among the provisions still to be commenced are those relating to mandated reporting of child abuse and the preparation of Child Safeguarding Statements by organisations providing relevant services to children.

The three groups who are in the front line of protecting children and defending their rights say that as a result of the government’s inaction children do not have sufficient legal protection when it comes to their safety.

They also say that in their work with children they see every day the impact of this legislative gap. The priority of government must be to commit to the safety and security of children. The Children First Act needs to be implemented in full and quickly.”

In his response the Taoiseach said that he would look at the possibility of accelerating the timetable for the full implementation of the Act.

I have now written to Minister Zappone asking for a full breakdown on those outstanding parts of the Act that have yet to be implemented; her existing timeframe for this and whether she believes it is possible to accelerate this process.

 

The future of Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough – Gerry Adams TD

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the Taoiseach to tell the British Secretary of State, James Brokenshire that “Lough Foyle and, for that matter, Carlingford Lough are not under British jurisdiction”.

The Louth TD raised the issue with the Taoiseach in the Dáil on Tuesday.

Gerry Adams said:

“Last week the British Secretary of State claimed that ‘the whole of Lough Foyle is within the UK.’

It has since emerged that the British are claiming Lough Foyle on the basis of a 1662 charter of Charles 11 which granted the waters and bed of the Lough as well as its fisheries to the Irish Society. They also claim jurisdiction over the northern part of the Lough.

This is unacceptable. It is further evidence of the difficulties that British colonialism and partition continues to create for the people of this island.

The Taoiseach needs to dismiss the British claims and tell the British Secretary of State that Lough Foyle and, for that matter, Carlingford Lough are not under British jurisdiction”.

 

Adams raises Mental Health Provision in Louth with Taoiseach and Minister McEntee

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams raised his concerns about mental health facilities in north Louth during Leaders Questions with the Taoiseach this morning. Mr. Adams called on the government to provide a time frame for the full implementation of the mental health programme ‘Vision for Change.’

The focus of Teachta Adams question centred on the report that there have been sixteen suicides in Cork in a fortnight. And the impact of this on families and communities. The Louth TD made the point that suicide and deficiencies in mental health services is an issue in Louth as well as in other parts of the island of Ireland.

Teachta Adams said:

“Suicide affects all sections and all generations are affected, from the very young to the very old, in rural and urban areas. It’s a human cost beyond comprehension.  One in seven adults will experience mental health challenges in any given year. In 2015, there were 451 recorded suicides in this State and 318 in the north, though we all know under reporting is wide spread.

The real figure for suicide across the island may be as high as one thousand people annually. It has also been recorded that at least 8,790 citizens presented with self-harm at hospitals across the State.

Last month I visited the Ladywell mental health day centre in Dundalk, which provides services for most of north Louth. The staff are extremely dedicated, but the conditions in which they are forced to treat patients is entirely unsuitable. The rooms are originally staff quarters which date back to when the hospital was first built seventy years ago. Some rooms are closed because of dampness. The maintenance bill alone is a constant drain on resources.

And whilst staff numbers have increased, there’s no room for them in Ladywell so they have to work out of St. Brigid’s in Ardee, with patients as far away as Carlingford having to travel there.

It’s entirely unacceptable, and they are of course just one of many units across the State that desperately need additional funding and an overhaul of facilities.

This morning I wrote to the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health Helen McEntee.  I asked her to provide a time frame for the delivery of a Primary Care Centre in Dundalk or, if this is not possible, to commit to the renovation and extension of the existing facilities at Ladywell to ensure adequate mental healthcare provision for the people of North Louth.

The State’s mental health policy ‘A Vision for Change’ has been in place since 2006. Despite that and ten years later there is still an absence of 24/7 crisis care. Staffing levels across the board are about 75% of the ‘Vision for Change’ recommended number. In some areas, they are way behind that figure.

In child and adolescent teams, staffing is just half of that recommended. The government committed to providing 8.24% of the health budget to mental health services. This target has never been met.

This pattern was repeated in this year’s budget. €35 million was announced, but the Minister then said just €15 million in additional funds would be provided for next year. An increase of less than two percent.

The government has a responsibility to provide a firm time frame for the implementation of Vision for Change.”