Bus Éireann CEO intransigence on talks without cuts – Imelda Munster TD

imelda-munster-tdAt a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Transport, Imelda Munster TD, today questioned Bus Éireann CEO Ray Hernan on the current financial crisis in the company, and asked him for a commitment to create space for engagement without pre-conditions with third parties, in an effort to find a solution to the problems faced by Bus Éireann.
Deputy Munster said:
“Would you agree to setting aside the inflammatory preconditions that you sent to unions and staff last week to allow space for a third party intervention?”

“That a semi-state company is seeking to implement proposals that would result in a 30% reduction in average pay, and an overall race to the bottom in workers’ rights and conditions, is absolutely appalling.”
“If you are genuine and serious, as you say you are, it’s reasonable to create space for engagement without pre-conditions.”
“Will you show a willingness to do this? Will you give a commitment on the public record?”

Deputy Munster cautioned that without a willingness on Mr Hernan’s and Bus Éireann’s part, the crisis is heading towards industrial action.“Without this commitment from Mr Hernan there is only one way this is headed, though of course that might have been the plan all along.”
Mr Hernan was not prepared to make such a commitment, saying that he was prepared to meet the unions, but he was unwilling to recognise that the cuts proposed in Bus Éireann’s letter to unions imposed pre-conditions upon staff.
Deputy Munster:
“Given the fact that you are unwilling to enter into negotiations without pre-conditions, and knowing what possibly lies ahead, you have to take responsibility for not engaging with workers and their representatives, and the chaos that may well ensue as a result of that unwillingness.”

 

All Schools in Louth must have access to the National Educational Psychological Service – Adams

DSC_3254_6510Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has written to the Education Minister, Richard Bruton TD, regarding damning reports in the media that more than 75% of schools in County Louth do not have access to a National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) psychologist.

Gerry Adams said;

“On 17th January, in response to a parliamentary question tabled by my Sinn Féin colleague Carol Nolan TD, the Education Minister confirms that 57 schools across Louth do not currently have access to a NEPS psychologist.

“On Saturday 21st January the Irish Examiner carried a report which states that 1 in 6 primary schools across the State have no access to a NEPS psychologist.

“This is totally unacceptable.  Often an assessment by the NEPS psychologist is the first stage to a child accessing a range of other services, interventions and supports, without which they may not be able to achieve their educational potential.

“The educational assessment is the gateway through which children must pass to access further educational and social supports so any delay in this assessment is intolerable for these kids and their families and causes much unnecessary stress and worry.  In addition any delay in assessments may have an impact on the child’s teacher and the other children in the class.

“Furthermore NEPS psychologists play a crucial role within schools in the event of a critical incident, for example a tragic death or other traumatic event.  In an occurrence like this the NEPS psychologist guides and advises school staff, who know the children well, to support and assist children and identify children who may require additional support.   I will not stand for children and schools in my constituency not having access to this vital service  

“I have asked further questions of the Education Minister on this issue.  We need to know the locations of the 57 schools in our constituency which are without access to a NEPS psychologist.

“In addition the Minister has stated that any school which doesn’t have access to a NEPS psychologist can access educational assessments through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA) and the cost will be reimbursed by NEPS.  

“I have requested information regarding the costs in Co Louth of accessing this scheme over the past 5 years and crucially I want to know what the waiting time is for children who need assessments whose schools do not have access to a NEPS psychologist.”

Brexit threatens Border communities

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD opened the Towards a United Ireland conference in the Mansion House in Dublin on Saturday 21st January.

It was a packed conference which included as panel speakers Michelle O’Neill MLA, Susan McKay, Keven Meagher, Brian Feeney, Alex Kane, Mary Lou McDonald TD, Noel Whelan, Cat Boyd and Matt Carthy MEP.

In his remarks to capacity audience the Louth TD warned of the dangers of Brexit, particularly for the border community.
Gerry Adams said:

“There are immediate challenges facing those of us who want a united independent Ireland. But what is clear is that partition has failed unionists. It has failed nationalists. It has failed the people of this island. And ending partition has now taken on a new imperative following last summer’s Brexit vote.

As the dire economic implications of Brexit take shape there is an opportunity to promote a new agreed Ireland. Sinn Féin’s proposition that the North be accorded a designated special status within the EU will not affect the constitutional question. Taking the North out of the EU will. It will destroy the Good Friday Agreement.

Clearly the preferred option of many unionists and many nationalists is to remain within the EU. The speech by Theresa May will have reinforced this. The dangers of a hard Brexit, especially for the border communities, are now more obvious than before. The North needs a special designated status within the EU. The Irish government needs to adopt this as a strategic objective in its negotiations within the EU 27 as they negotiate with the British Prime Minister.

I have raised this consistently with the Taoiseach. However, as we saw this week in the Irish governments response to the speech by Theresa May there is at this time no strategic plan coming from the government. That is a cause of real concern.

The British government’s intention to take the North out of the EU, despite the wish of the people there to remain, is a hostile action. Not just because of the implications of a hard border on this island but also because of its negative impact on the Good Friday Agreement.

The British Prime Minister repeated her intention to bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court. Along with her commitment to remove Britain from the European Convention on Human Rights this stand threatens to undermine the fundamental human rights elements of the Good Friday Agreement. The British position also fails to take account of the fact that citizens in the North, under the Agreement, have a right to Irish citizenship and therefore EU citizenship.

All of this, and the current crisis around the RHI scandal is creating new political conditions. I believe that if we properly frame the positive arguments the potential of a new, reimagined, confident Ireland within the European Union, will prove attractive to some unionists.

There is an onus on the Irish Government to prepare a real plan for unity. A first step in this would be the development of an all-party group to bring forward a Green Paper for Unity.  In addition, plans should be developed for an all-island National Health Service and for all island public services through a ‘United Ireland Investment and Prosperity Plan’.

Now is the time for all parties who support Irish unity to come together to design the pathway to a new, agreed, inclusive united Ireland – an Ireland that is built on equality and which is citizen-centred and inclusive.”

New Chair for Louth Sinn Féin Comhairle Ceantair

Jane Martin pictured with Cllr Pearse McGeough & Imelda Munster TD

Jane Martin pictured with Cllr Pearse McGeough & Imelda Munster TD

Louth Sinn Féin held their AGM last night and a new Chairperson was elected. Jane martin is from Dundalk and has been an enthusiastic party worker and activist since the 1980’s. More recently Jane has been working for the Party across the 15 counties of the ‘Midlands-North West’ area.  Jane was instrumental in the election campaigns of the local elections in 2014, Matt Carthy’s campaign for Europe in 2014 and the Dáil General Election in 2016.

Speaking after her appointment Jane Martin said “I am honoured to be given this opportunity in Louth, we have a great team here in the county. We are the biggest party on Louth County Council with ten councillors, we have two TDs, one of them being our party president Gerry Adams and the other being Imelda Munster, the first woman elected as TD in Louth and our MEP Matt Carthy. I look forward to continuing our great work and moving us on to even greater things.”

The packed meeting sent congratulations and support to the North’s new leader Jane Martin 2Michelle O’Neill MLA who took over the reins from Martin McGuinness this week. Discussions revolved around issues and challenges in the county.

Jane Martin said “some of the issues discussed were the housing shortage, the homeless epidemic and the lack of funding in the county for our roads. The most pressing issue was BREXIT which is of serious concern for the people of Ireland especially those living along the border. BREXIT will be bad for our border communities, bad for the economy and bad for workers. There has never been a better time to talk about building a new, fairer and united Ireland and I look forward to working with our activists in working towards building an Ireland we can all be proud to live in.”

Jane Martin also called for the young people of the county to get involved. “If you want to make a change, if you want to continue the struggle for a United Ireland then join Sinn Féin and make a difference. Just call into our office in Dundalk or Drogheda or go to www.sinnfein.ie and sign up.”

200 children per week left without local dental service – Imelda Munster TD

Imelda Munster white coatSinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath, Imelda Munster, raised the matter of the complete lack of dental services for primary school children in Drogheda and South Louth in the Dáil this week. Since the New Year there have been no dental clinics in operation in the area. A service is not expected to resume before June of this year, when a new clinic is due to open in the Boyne centre in Drogheda, leaving 200 primary school children per week without a local service for the next six months.

Deputy Munster:

“Upwards of 4,800 children will be left without a service locally over the next six months, since the surgeries in the Haymarket Clinic in Drogheda were closed, and the other two clinics in Ballsgrove were closed due to fire damage.”

“Primary school children are currently being referred to the Louth County Hospital in Dundalk, and to other clinics in Duleek, Ardee and Navan which is causing significant delays, disruption and gross inconvenience for children and their parents.”

Deputy Munster suggested that a mobile dental unit might be a practical solution in the short term, however Minister for State Helen McEntee, who was taking questions on behalf of the Minister for Health Simon Harris, said that this will not be possible for health and safety reasons, despite their use being widespread in England.

Deputy Munster:

“The Department’s response to my call for a mobile unit is not correct. I can only assume the Department does not want the bother or inconvenience of providing a mobile unit to cater for these children.”

Deputy Munster also asked if, in the absence of a mobile unit, a HSE-run hourly shuttle bus might be brought into use to assist families with their travel needs, as they are now obliged to travel to Dundalk, Navan and Ardee.

The Minister of State did not give a commitment on this matter, other than to say the potential for minibus transfer for patients with lack of access to transport is being explored by the HSE and that Deputy Munster can expect an update by the end of this month.

Deputy Munster:

“This situation is unacceptable. I expect the Minister to get back to me on this at the earliest opportunity. Children in Drogheda and South Louth can’t be left without a local dental service.”