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.”

Cllr Tom Cunningham Calls for Cross-Party Support for Wind Turbine Regulation Bill

Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Cunningham has called on all Parties to support the Sinn Féin Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2016 which will be voted on next Thursday (28th September) in the Dáil.

Cllr Cunningham said “Wind farms have been a bone of contention in communities for some years now and this Bill seeks to address the issue. It seeks to regulate wind farms and to ensure that while this industry develops that it does so with community engagement and also provides legal protection for the rural communities.”

“This has been an area that has been neglected by the last two Governments simply because it is a contentious issue and because of this lack of legislation in terms of planning regulations for wind turbines, many rural communities have suffered greatly.”

“This Bill has various provisions in terms of creating a legal framework for wind farm development, for example, to protect rural dwellers the Bill proposes a setback of 10 times the height of the turbine, along with provisions to protect against noise and shadow flicker.

“Turbines should only be located in areas designated by County Councillors in the county development plan. We also allow for both optional community ownership and greater consultation.”

Sinn Féin is the first Party to put forward legislation giving firm legal protections for rural communities across the State in relation to where the wind farms are sited.

Cllr Cunningham continued “No-one is denying that harnessing wind to generate power could go a long way to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and renewable energy development is urgently needed but it is essential that we create other renewable energy sources; off-shore wind, biomass and biogas are seriously underdeveloped.”

“Clean green forms of indigenous energy can be further harnessed but we must ensure it is done with the involvement of local communities.”

Tom Cunningham called on all Parties to support Sinn Féin’s Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2016 and he urged “the public to contact your local TD and encourage them to support regulation of the Wind Farms and turbines. This Bill is about legal protection for rural communities. It’s your community, make sure you are heard.”

Adams meets Border Communities Against Brexit group in Dáil

Bernard Boyle, John Sheridan, Gerry, Declan Fearon, Kaniah Cusack

Bernard Boyle, John Sheridan, Gerry, Declan Fearon, Kaniah Cusack

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams met representatives of the Border Communities Against Brexit group in the Dáil this week where they were making a submission to the Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement committee on the issue of Brexit.

Gerry Adams said:

“I want to commend the work of the Border Communities group. The issue of Brexit is probably the most important and difficult challenge facing the citizens of this island in recent decades.

This week Bord Bia in its annual Export Review and Prospects Report concluded that Brexit cost the Irish food and drink industry €570 million in 2016. Exports to Britain have fallen by 8% in the last year. Bord Bia also warned that the situation would remain serious for the industry throughout this year.

A recent report by the German Chambers of Commerce World-wide and the German Irish Chamber of Commerce painted a gloomy picture for this island in the event of Brexit. It said that as the EU member most connected with Britain that we will suffer most from market volatility and unpredictability from the impact of Brexit. It specifically identifies key sectors, including Foreign Direct Investment, agri-food and tourism, as well as a likely damaging effect on our energy security.

In my discussions with the Border Communities Against Brexit delegation they expressed serious concern about the impact of a so-called hard border and the possibility of a return to the bad years of border road closures. The blocking and destruction of hundreds of cross border roads during the years of conflict life along the border, especially for farmers and local business.

In their submission to the Dáil’s Good Friday Agreement Committee they pointed out that: Currently on Europe’s eastern border Frontex is responsible for the implementation of the Hard Border that exists there. All small roads are closed and people are forced through large designated checkpoints. In Slovakia for example there are Three Crossings Ubla, Vysne Nemecke and Zahony, these a large scale crossing with 6 – 8 lanes, where passports, visa’s, the vehicles and there contents are checked. Currently if you live more than 50 miles from the European Border you must apply a week in advance to gain entry, anyone living within 50 miles can apply for a yearly pass.”

The British Prime Minister Theresa May is also refusing to tell the Executive in the North, or the Scottish or Welsh Cabinets her negotiation strategy for Brexit. This is causing serious concern.

Sinn Féin believes that the Remain vote in the North must be respected by the British government. There is a particular onus on the Irish government to work for the North as a special designated region within the European Union. In a recent document published by the party – Brexit – The case for the North to achieve Designated Special Status within the EU – we spell out how this can be achieved. We also reference other examples within the existing EU structures were such arrangements have been agreed and are in place.

The vast majority of citizens on the island of Ireland understand the imperative of opposing one part of the island – the North – being dragged out of the EU. The adverse impact on the whole island would be substantial.

There is an onus on the Irish government to put in place a comprehensive strategy that refuses to be mesmerised by what the London government is going to do. The Taoiseach needs to focus on an all-island vision and in particular on securing a designated special status for the North within the EU.”

Additional resources needed for citizens with Spinal Cord Injuries – Adams

DSC_3254_6510Louth TD Gerry Adams has said that services in Louth must be improved to ensure greater autonomy and better quality of life for people who have sustained spinal cord injuries (SCI).

Gerry Adams said;

“I received information following a Dáil briefing by Spinal Injuries Ireland on 22nd June that 72 people in Louth have a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI).  Spinal Injuries Ireland estimates that for every person with an injury to their spinal cord, there are an additional 10 people in their community of family and friends impacted.  This means that almost 1,000 people in this constituency are affected.”

During the briefing in the Dáil a number of people living with SCI’s explained how their lives were affected by their disability.

Gerry Adams said;

“The common theme from these testimonies is the necessity for people with a spinal cord injury to have automatic access to a medical card. The potential loss of the medical card is an immensely significant barrier for people with disabilities and chronic illness entering employment and Spinal Injuries Ireland’s research has shown that while 84% of people with an SCI were employed at the time of their injury, 76% are unemployed following injury.

“It has also been suggested by advocates working in the field that some people with disabilities, fearful they might lose their medical card, have left employment.  Unless the medical card system is reformed, this will continue to act as one of the most significant poverty traps.”

Commenting on his actions on the matter, Teachta Adams said:

“I have submitted a parliamentary question to the Health Minister to find out what services are available in Louth for people with an SCI, in addition I have queried the access to community rehabilitation services in Louth and the fact that there is no Irish based rehabilitation service for people with an SCI who are on ventilation treatment

“I believe we should cherish people with disabilities and support them to participate fully in society.  This begins by ensuring access to medical care and appropriate supports to access employment.”


Gerry Adams TD raises NAMA Project Eagle in the Dáil

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has called on the Taoiseach to immediately establish a Commission of Investigation into the sale of NAMA’s Northern loan book, Project Eagle.

Teachta Adams said:

“For years now, Sinn Féin have raised concerns about the sale of NAMA’s loan books, especially the sale and purchase process of Project Eagle. Both the Taoiseach and the former Tánaiste Joan Burton accused the Opposition of ‘conflating’ the matter. Deputy Burton actually described it as just a ‘Northern tale’. It is actually a national debacle.

“The sale and purchase process of NAMA’s Northern loan book has been the subject of serious allegations of a cosy cartel of insider trading, payments for the golden circle, and the payment of illegal fixer fees.

“NAMA previously claimed that its Northern Advisory Committee was not privy to confidential information regarding the sale. It has since been disclosed that the Committee discussed potential purchasers on at least two occasions before the loan book was sold at a huge loss to Irish taxpayers.

“NAMA’s Chairman, Mr. Frank Daly said he briefed Minister Noonan in full, including on the scandal of the £15 million fixer fee, which is totally irregular, and illegal.

“The Minister accepts this, but he failed to suspend the Project Eagle sale process or inform the Office of First and deputy First Ministers.  Again, the Assembly enquiry noted with regret this failure.

“In the public interest, the whole matter must be fully investigated to get to the bottom of allegations of wrongdoing and cosy cartels which has cost the Irish State hundreds of millions of euro. The Government should commit to the immediate establishment of a Commission of Investigation into the sale of Project Eagle.”