Munster: 50% increased Spending Deficit since Ross Took Office

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Transport, Imelda Munster TD, has lambasted the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross TD, after he disclosed at a meeting of the Oireachtas Transport Committee that the spending deficit in road maintenance has increased by 50% since he took office.

Deputy Munster said:

“When Shane Ross took office there was a deficit in spending on the maintenance of local and regional roads to the tune of €3billion.

“This was due to a decade of neglect when the previous Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments chose to bail out banks rather than invest in services and infrastructure.

“However, the government is blue in the face trying to convince us that the economy is in recovery.

“If the economy is booming, why is the deficit at €4.5billion after two years of this government being in power? That is an increase of 50%.

“Fianna Fáil also have to take responsibility, for supporting successive budgets that have led to the crumbling of infrastructure right across the state.

“It is clear that Shane Ross is out of his depth. He has known about this issue for 2 years and has done precious little to address it.

“The longer he ignores this issue the more costly it will be, both in terms of spending in order to bring roads up to a steady state condition and in terms of road safety.

Adams criticises Gov/FF opposition to Extreme Weather Bill

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has condemned the decision by the government and Fianna Fáil to oppose Sinn Féin’s Extreme Weather Bill.

Teachta Adams said:

“The Extreme Weather Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2018 is about prioritising the safety of citizens during extreme weather events and alerts. The impetus for this legislation was the tragic deaths of three citizens last year during Storm Ophelia. Firstly, the purpose of this Bill is to amend the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to ensure that employees are safe during severe weather warnings issued by Met Éireann.

Secondly, it amends the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 to provide for the protection of public safety and the safety of rescue service personnel during such a weather warning.

Storm Emma and Ophelia exposed the weakness in existing legislation and the confusion that exists over the responsibilities of employers and the rights of workers in the private sector.

The Sinn Féin Bill is about addressing these issues. The need for this was most obvious in advance of Storm Emma when the Government urged people not to travel unless absolutely necessary and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar specifically asked everyone to stay at home for a 24 hour period during the red status alert.

The decision by the Government and Fianna Fáil to oppose this Bill will continue to put at risk the lives of citizens faced with the choice of working during extreme weather alerts as demanded by their employer and losing wages.

Storm Ophelia was responsible for three deaths; Fintan Goss, Clare O’Neill and Michael Pyke. The government and Fianna Fáil should support our Bill and strengthen the legislative mechanisms available to protect citizens and avoid preventable future deaths.”

Speaking in the Dáil Gerry Adams said:

The impetus for this legislation was the tragic deaths of three citizens last year during Storm Ophelia.

The family of Fintan Goss from Ravensdale, in my own constituency of Louth, contacted local TDs following his death and appealed to us to ensure that employees are protected during instances of extreme weather.

I wish to commend the Goss family who, in the midst of their grief, sought to ensure that other families are protected in the future.

The Met Éireann website states that: “The core rationale for issuing Weather Warnings is to protect the lives and livelihoods of all of the nation’s citizens”. 

Sinn Féin agrees. So, the purpose of this Bill is twofold.

Firstly, it will amend the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to make sure that employees are safe during severe weather warnings issued by Met Éireann.

Secondly, it amends the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 to provide for the protection of public safety and the safety of rescue service personnel during such a weather warning.

The responsibility of government is to prepare for such events and to ensure that they create minimum disruption while protecting lives.

In advance of Storm Emma there was widespread media coverage of the impending bad weather and we were all left in no doubt about the seriousness of the extreme weather which was expected.

In the case of public sector workers, it was very straightforward. Non-emergency service staff stayed at home. Many hospital and front line staff demonstrated commendable commitment and courage as did carers and personal assistants.

But some people with disabilities were left isolated for days.

This is an issue we need to return to.

In the private sector however there was great uncertainty among staff as to what they should do.

Some people took a day’s holiday and stayed at home. Some worked from home. And some people, in the absence of clear guidelines from their employers, went to work. The objective of this Bill is to provide clarity and protection for workers and citizens.

No employee should be asked to or expected to jeopardise their safety to go to work when there is a clear risk to their health and safety. As legislators, we have a responsibility to act to remove this ambiguity.

The second part of the Bill deals with protecting the public and members of the emergency services. Driving through breaking high waves on a seaside promenade, swimming in seas that are clearly dangerous or going for a drive into a countryside blanketed in snow, in roads that are unsafe, or engaging in some other similar activity obviously puts that person’s life at risk.

It also creates a dangerous situation for front line emergency staff or neighbours or good Samaritans who try to help. This behaviour is irresponsible.

This Bill will introduce a criminal offence with a penalty of a Class D fine (up to €1,000) and/or up to six month’s imprisonment for anyone who engages in such reckless behaviour.

I have written to all party leaders and all Louth TDs asking for support for this Bill.”

Imelda Munster TD: Dáil Bar Tab Culture Needs to End

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has today cricitised the practice of allowing Oireachtas members the privilege of buying food and drink in Leinster House on credit, whilst welcoming new measures to ensure that these tabs will at least be cleared by Oireachtas members going forward.

Deputy Munster said:

“Any measure designed to ensure that Oireachtas members pay their debts is of course to be welcomed. I would question the practice of giving TDs and Senators the option of credit in the first place.”

“It’s a privilege not afforded to anyone else, and I think it should be scrapped completely.”

A letter was sent to all Oireachtas members this week which outlined a new credit policy for use of the Dáil bars and restaurants.

The policy requires that TDs and Senators must register before seeking to make purchases on credit, and also provides for a facility where any debts will taken from the salary of the Oireachtas member the month following the end of the credit period.

A recent report by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission disclosed that almost €5,500 in unpaid Dáil catering tabs had to be written off, because the politicians involved would not settle their bills.

Deputy Munster said:

“You couldn’t make it up. In what other workplace are there two bars, where people can buy drink and food on credit?”

“The Dáil is a place of work, and I see no reason for bars on the premises, in particular the Private Members’ Bar from which staff and visitors are prohibited.”

“If an ordinary mother can’t go into a restaurant and demand food on credit, I don’t see why Oireachtas members are afforded that privilege.”

“I welcome the fact that debts will now be paid by TDs and Senators. Before this change in policy, sleveen politicians would bring up groups of constituents and make big men of themselves buying rounds of drinks, and presumably votes, and then never paying for them.”

“This was making fools of constituents who went home thinking their local politician had bought them food or drink, when in fact they themselves, as taxpayers, were picking up the tab.”

“I have written to the Ceann Comhairle expressing the view that this culture needs to stop. There is no justification for it”.

“This privilege afforded to TDs, allowing them Dáil tabs for wining and dining has to stop.”

Gerry Adams: Brexit Casts its Shadow Over Worker’s Rights

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams addressed the Global Steering Committee of the trans-national UNI Global Union in Monasterboice, County Louth, on Wednesday evening. UNI Global Union was holding its two-day international conference. Representatives from over a dozen countries participated in the conference which was looking at health care issues and the approach of the Union, which represents 20 million workers in over 150 counties worldwide, to issues like Brexit.

Gerry Adams was asked to speak to the conference on the issue of Brexit, as well as the recent 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Teachta Adams called on the Irish government, in the remaining months of the negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal treaty, to lead the demand for the North to remain within the customs union and the single market and within the EU legal framework. He said: “This is the best way of protecting workers rights across this island. It is also the only way to avoid a hard border, with its dire economic consequences, on the island of Ireland.”

Speaking on Brexit Gerry Adams said:

“The British referendum result in 2016 on Brexit is probably the most serious political and economic crisis to face this island in many decades. No part of the island of Ireland, and in particular border regions like County Louth, will be immune from the economic and political consequences of Brexit.

Workers will also be especially vulnerable as a consequence of Brexit. Many important elements of existing workers’ rights, such as pay and working time, are regulated by EU social law. Brexit is a threat to this.

There is little doubt that the Tories in London, supported by their allies in the DUP, will use Brexit to whittle away at hard-fought workers’ rights. They will seek to undermine the rights of trade unions – including the right to join a trade union, to strike, and to organise collectively

In terms of workers’ rights, the Tories and Brexiteers are keen to see:

·         The erosion of legislation protecting agency workers;

·         The expansion of zero-hour and if-and-when contracts;

·         The removal of key elements of anti-discrimination law;

·         Deregulation of work safety standards in the name of ‘efficiency’

·         Attacks on laws relating to migrant workers and immigration – which feeds into xenophobia

·         Attacks on the welfare state and the social wage

These issues are not confined to the north and to Britain. The conservative right in this state will also use Brexit to attack workers’ rights and standards. We are already facing a rise in if-and-when contracts, in agency workers, and the watering-down of pension and other entitlements.

Fine Gael’s moves against the welfare state in the South – making it more difficult for workers to avail of unemployment payments, along with the outsourcing of the social protection system to private, for-profit, operators – will increase under Brexit.

They will claim that this is necessary because of the “threat” caused by Brexit to the economy. In other words, what “austerity” was in the last ten years, “Brexit” will be for the next ten. This needs to be challenged and resisted.

Sinn Féin believes that this can be accomplished most effectively through a coming together of progressive forces in the north and south – political parties, trade unions, and civil society groups.

Only such progressive partnerships can genuinely resist the onslaught from the political right on the lives of ordinary people.”

Concluding Gerry Adams said:

“In the Brexit referendum the people of the North voted to remain in the EU. In the aftermath of the referendum Sinn Féin called for the North to be given a special status within the EU. That position is supported by the Oireachtas, the majority of MLAs in the Assembly and the European Parliament.

In the remaining months of the negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal treaty the Irish government must lead the demand for the North to remain within the customs union and the single market and within the EU legal framework. This is the best way of protecting workers rights across this island. It is also the only way to avoid a hard border, with its dire economic consequences, on the island of Ireland.”

Adams calls for Civil Registration Office to be reopened

Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has described the current closure of Dundalk Civil Registration Office as unacceptable and has written to the Minister for Health asking for an explanation and for the office to be reopened.

Gerry Adams said:

“The closure, without any notification, of the Civil Registration Services office in Dundalk has proven enormously disruptive for local people wanting to register births, deaths, and marriages. The unannounced closure of this busy office is entirely unacceptable.

I have asked the Health Minister, who is responsible, why this decision was taken? I have also queried what steps Minister Harris plans to take towards the reopening of the office and when members of the public might expect this service to be available once more.

“My party colleague Cllr Anne Campbell has received complaints from constituents who only discovered the office was closed when they went to register.

“It is totally unfair that the constituents of north Louth are now expected to travel to Drogheda to carry out routine registration of births, deaths and marriages.  The distance from Omeath to Drogheda is 59 kilometres. For families who have either just had a birth or death this is an unnecessary burden at what is obviously a stressful time.

“We already know that people are expected to travel to Drogheda to access many types of medical care.  The range of services which had been delivered at Louth County Hospital and then removed have never been replaced in the town and people accessing mental health services such as CAMHS have no suitable premises in Dundalk and they too must go to Drogheda.

“The argument for the removal of medical services to Drogheda has long been that expertise is centred there.  However, there is no rationale for the loss of administrative functions, such as the civil registration office, from Dundalk. The Minister has a responsibility to explain why Dundalk Registration Office was closed without notice and tell us when we can expect that it will be re-opened?”