Louth County Council supports Sruthán House respite retention

Louth County Council has supported a motion presented by Sinn Féin councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú in support of the retention and development of respite services for people with disabilities.

Councillor Ó Murchú stated,

“Parents of disabled children and older parents of disabled adults do this State an enormous service through the dedication and devotion with which they provide 24/7 care for their loved ones.

“The covenant which the State made with them was that they would have access to regular, appropriate respite at a location in their own community. The arbitrary HSE decision in July to close the Dundalk based Sruthán House respite centre displays a clear lack of respect for the people using this service and their families.

“I have met many service users of Sruthán House. Sinn Féin hosted a public meeting on the issue in July and I attended their summer garden party a few weeks ago. All of the people I met have spoken in the highest terms about the service and the staff at Sruthán House.

“It is a community within the community, a model of good practice.

“Sruthán House has service users from Louth, Monaghan and Meath.   These people simply cannot be expected to attend alternative respite in Roscommon or Sligo. It is a nonsense.

“In recent years there has been additional respite capacity delivered in County Louth. However supports for people with disabilities and their carers have been decimated by this government.

“The mobility grant and rehabilitative training allowance have been slashed.

“Waiting times for Occupational Therapy and psychology assessment is up to two years.

“The people working to deliver these services are doing their best but the truth is that these services are grossly under resourced.

“The campaign to keep Sruthán House open has my full support and I am delighted that Louth County Council will now convey the support of the entire council to the Minister for Health and the HSE to ensure that this service is not lost.”

Government must address insurance industry dysfunction: Ó Murchú

 

Sinn Féin councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has secured the support of councillors on Louth County Council for his motion calling on the government to address dysfunction in the Irish Insurance industry.

Speaking following Monday’s meeting of Louth County Council, the Sinn Féin general election candidate said;

“The insurance industry in this State lacks transparency, accountability and regulation and is in urgent need of intervention. The issues affecting the insurance industry are fraudulent claims, exorbitant levels of award and the exaggeration of the incidence of bogus claims by insurance companies to justify massive hikes in premiums.

“Without urgent government intervention people will continue to be ripped off by unscrupulous providers and increasing numbers of Irish businesses will be unable to secure insurance, particularly in the leisure, entertainment & tourism sector.

“Louth County Council is also a victim of spiralling premiums. Funds which could be used for other vital services within this county must be diverted to service insurance costs.We all know the inflatable hire industry for example is facing obliteration following the decision by the industry’s only public liability insurer to withdraw from the market. The fact that only one company was providing insurance to this sector tells its own tale.

“The Irish market is just too risky and the outworking of this is that inflatable hire businesses with no claims against them risk becoming collateral damage.

“Earlier this week, the Public Participation Network released a survey which indicated that almost half of community and voluntary groups may be forced to close if insurance costs continue to rise. This is affecting Dundalk based businesses, some of which will close, resulting in job losses.

“Insurance providers have evaded scrutiny for too long. This issue must be on the government’s agenda for the upcoming term.

“While I welcome comments by Pascal Donohoe that this issue will be given government priority, we need action not words.”

Brexit Demo As Boris has Breakfast in Dublin

Sinn Féin Louth councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has attended a demonstration at Leinster House in Dublin this morning to coincide with the meeting of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. 
 
Speaking from the event Cllr Ó Murchú said,
 
“It is clear from the words and actions of Boris Johnson that he simply does not care about how Brexit will impact on the people of this island. 
 
“The fact that it has taken Mr Johnson 6 weeks to meet An Taoiseach is further evidence of the distain with which he has treated the Irish people. 
 
“People have attended here this morning in large numbers to register their fears for the hugely negative consequences of any type of Brexit on this country. 
 
“Border Communities Against Brexit have also attended this demonstration and it is clear that for people living, working and raising families in border areas in particular a hard Brexit would be catastrophic. 
 
“The Taoiseach must make it clear to Boris Johnson that the backstop is absolutely essential and furthermore he must urgently begin planing for Irish reunification.”

Hunger Strike Commemoration in Louth 2019

Louth Sinn Féin held its annual Hunger Strike commemoration in Drogheda on Saturday 7th September. The event was chaired by Imelda Munster TD and we heard the beautiful poem The Rhythm of Time, written by Bobby Sands, read out by Lee Hamill. A wreath on behalf of Sinn Féin was laid by Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú.

The main speaker was a stalwart of Irish Republicanism, a man who was a friend of Bobby Sands and played a pivotal role in the 1980 & 1981 hunger strikes.

Danny is the secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust which was set up to protect Bobby Sands’ writings and to ensure they would always be in print in perpetuity.

We have printed his speech below but bear in mind, the words do not do justice to the passion with which they were delivered.

Over to Danny….

“In two years’ time we will be commemorating the 40th anniversary of the hunger strike. It seems incredible because to me and many of the older ones here, it seems like only yesterday. From where we stand today, the way we live our lives and enjoy our lives, what went on back then seems incomprehensible – the way our prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh Prison were forced to live, the conditions and brutality they endured.

But let’s go back even before that to understand what happened. It is a lesson in why you cannot trust the British government and is a lesson for us today when they try to tell people they don’t want a hard border and won’t implement a hard border.

Lee Hamill reads The Rhythm of Time

In 1971, Britain introduced internment and the republican prisoners incarcerated, without charge or trial, had political status. In 1972, sentenced republican prisoners then went on a hunger strike for the same status. Before anyone died the British agreed to recognise the political status of the prisoners.

The agreement didn’t bring total peace to the jails – we in the Cages of Long Kesh were still subject to violent military searches every couple of weeks; prisoners died of medical neglect when warders would not answer the emergency bell; and an internee, Hugh Coney, was shot dead trying to escape. However, the agreement brought relative peace to the jails and no prison officer lost his life or was attacked – until, that is, the beatings began in the H-Blocks.

But, the British government reneged on this agreement. Beginning in 1976 it planned to humiliate and subjugate sentenced prisoners in the belief that if it could demoralise and criminalise the prisoners then it could demoralise the IRA on the outside, which its repression had failed to defeat.

        Ruairí Ó Murchú lays a wreath

Don’t imagine that Britain didn’t know what it was doing or what the reaction would be. It knew that the republicans would resist – as Thomas Ashe had resisted in 1917 as Terence MacSwiney had resisted in 1920. So, even if their criminalisation programme failed they would still have the satisfaction of beating republicans, giving them black eyes, busted eardrums and broken fingers, and punishing them for their ongoing resistance and refusal to be cowed, the way Israeli soldiers vent their racism on the Palestinian people with killings and collective punishments.

So appalling were the conditions in the H-Blocks that in August 1978, after visiting the prison, Cardinal Ó Fiaich said: “one would hardly allow an animal to remain in such conditions, let alone a human being. The nearest approach to it that I have seen was the spectacle of hundreds of homeless people living in sewer-pipes in the slums of Calcutta.”

But nothing would move the British, especially Margaret Thatcher who became prime minister in 1979.

The prisoners then began discussing a hunger strike and we on the outside wanted to avoid a hunger strike which we believed would end in deaths. From early 1980 I began visiting the prisoners, including Bobby Sands, Brendan Hughes and Mairead Farrell in Armagh Jail. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I can still recall the smell of the prisoners, the pallor of their skin, their pimpled faces, Mairead Farrell’s greasy hair, because it had been years since they had been allowed out of their cells to wash or to exercise in the open air.

      Imelda Munster TD

At the same time, Gerry Adams and I began secretly meeting Cardinal Ó Fiaich and he, in turn, was talking to the British Secretary of State, Humphry Atkins. To help the talks the IRA stopped attacking prison warders. At one point, I think it was August 1980, Cardinal Ó Fiaich contacted us with news of a breakthrough after a meeting in Downing Street. He said the British government had conceded the right of the prisoners to wear their own clothes. However, when he was in the air on a flight to Rome, the British government issued a statement saying, “No, no! Not their own clothes, it will be prison-issue, civilian-type clothes” – which to the prisoners was just another uniform.

And so the 1980 hunger strike commenced. When it was in its 40th day we were contacted by the British government who claimed they wanted to find a resolution. The hunger strike ended, with Sean McKenna, seriously ill, and the British supplying a document promising a progressive prison regime. But when the prisoners applied for their clothes, the prison governor said – “Put on your uniform first and begin conforming.” There was no give, no compromise, and so Bobby Sands began the second hunger strike on March 1st, 1981.

Those seven, long, gruelling months when ten young men, two of whom were married, Bobby Sands and Joe McDonnell, died, those seven months of hunger strike made international headlines and exposed the cruelty and intransigence of Britain.

“How can I talk to you,” said Margaret Thatcher, “when you have no mandate.”

So, Bobby stood for election and was elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and got twice the majority that Thatcher got in Finchley. This was the perfect moment for compromise. But what did Thatcher do?

She rushed through a new the law, she amended the Representation of the People Act so that no other hunger striker or political prisoner could stand in an election and embarrass her and contradict her lies.

    Danny Morrison – Legend

Her intransigence led not only to the deaths of ten prisoners but to many people on the outside as well, including two children and a mother of three, by plastic bullets where I live in West Belfast. No arrests, no investigations, no charges.

As we know, after the hunger strike, the British conceded the five demands and, as part of the Good Friday Agreement the political prisoners were released from the jails.

The hunger strike was a huge event in Irish history. It was our ‘1916’. It inspired thousands of people to become activists. And, of course, the electoral success of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and two months later of Kieran Doherty in Cavan-Monaghan and Paddy Agnew, here in Louth, were to provide us with the next phase of our struggle and the electoral rise of Sinn Féin.

How wrong Thatcher was when she described the hunger strike as the IRA’s last card.

The amazing Rising Phoenix Flute Band

Of course, the attempted criminalisation of republicans, the demonization of republicans, that mindset, has continued afoot, and nowhere more so than by politicians in the South and sections of the media. I’ll never forget when, in the by-election after Bobby’s death, Owen Carron, Bobby’s election agent, took Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act Owen was banned from the airwaves. But RTE interviewed the loser, Ken Maginnis, a former member of the UDR. Again, when Gerry Adams was shot in 1984 RTE could have legally interviewed the organisation that shot him, the UDA, but not interviewed their victim, Gerry Adams.

Governments here simply did not trust the people to make up their own minds about the rights and wrongs of what was going in the North. That direct censorship truly damaged the prospects of dialogue and protracted the conflict, in my opinion.

Today, we have the likes of Micheál Martin attacking Sinn Féin for not breaking its election pledges and going back into Stormont and taking seats on the executive with the DUP. Is it not then hypocritical and a double standard, and partitionist, for the same Micheál Martin to state that Sinn Féin is not fit for government in the South? Okay for the North, but not the South.

We have politicians calling upon Sinn Féin to betray the electorate and its manifesto by taking seats in Westminster. The same politicians whose

        A small portion of the crowd

parties have had ample opportunity to set up shop in the North and run for elections but are too cowardly to do so. Ever wonder why Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who had eighty years to do so, never organised in the North? It was because they accepted partition, became comfortable with partition and perfected partition.

Once you take your seats in Westminster and interfere in the affairs of Britain you lose all moral right to complain about Britain interfering in Irish affairs. The TDs, the Sinn Féin men and women elected in December 1918 – whom Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil revere – were right to boycott Westminster then, just as Sinn Féin women and men today are right to boycott that alien parliament and demonstrate to the world our rejection of British rule in Ireland.

Many politicians and many in the media are apoplectic on the occasions when a republican will refer to the Twenty-Six Counties as the ‘Free State’.

I can understand that. It is a pejorative term. But can they understand how insulting it is for us from the six counties when we are excluded by the deliberate use of the term ‘Ireland’ by those same politicians and editorial writers when they know that they are actually referring to the Twenty-Six Counties, to the Republic of Ireland. It is just as easy to say the Republic of Ireland. So, we must ask them, why do you do that? Is it to be offensive? Is it to project the false and repugnant notion that you and you alone are Ireland and that we, in the Six Counties are somehow second-class Irish?

If you think that, you are you mightily mistaken!

Book available from Dundalk Sinn Féin

I live in Belfast, I live in the North. But the state I live in is not the state I grew up in. Our struggle, our uprising, changed all that. Nationalists and republicans no longer feel vanquished. We are first class citizens and we stand tall. We know what we want and we are not so stupid to think that a New Ireland will work without the support and cooperation of the unionist community. Without reconciliation. Without expressions of the hurt and pain all sides inflicted. Those discussions – about how a New Ireland is configured – are taking place and will continue to take place, and in all likelihood will intensify if the British government crashes out of the European Union, and economic interests, reconciliation and unity prevail over narrow political ideology and sectarianism.

As the fortieth anniversary of the hunger strike approaches, let us take stock of where we are. We have greatly advanced, and many obstacles, none insuperable, are in our way. The sacrifices of the hunger strikers, of the Blanketmen, of the women in Armagh Prison, continue to inspire and motivate me and my generation and the youth of today.

Bobby Sands wrote about every one having their part to play, regardless how small. You are the republican grassroots. The ones who come out and march for Irish independence, for an Ireland where Britain has departed from our shores for good. You are the faithful. The ones who do not forget. And from your ranks will come the leaders of tomorrow.

You are the future.

Our past is a past littered with the names of prisons – Limerick, Portlaoise, Mountjoy, Armagh, the Maidstone, Magilligan, Crumlin Road, Maghaberry, Long Kesh and the H-Blocks.

In our tomorrow there will be no barbed wire, no locks, no borders, but the open air of freedom, the open air of sweet freedom, at last.”

              Some of the Sinn Fein team in Louth with Danny Morrison

Dundalk Drugs Unit Vehicle Attacked

Sinn Féin Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has said that an attack on a garda vehicle is ‘brazen and reprehensible’
 
Councillor Ó Murchú said; 

“I spoke to Superintendent Gerry Curley this morning (Wednesday)  in relation to the recent petrol bomb attacks on a house in Clontygora Court.
 
There were two attacks in as many days that this property was targeted. 
Luckily only one actually ignited and it was brought under control very quickly. 
 
“Clontygora Court is an estate with many young families and many are living in fear of getting caught up in this violence. 
 
“During this morning’s conversation Superintendent Curley told me that there had also been an attempted arson attack last night on a Garda drugs unit vehicle which was parked outside Dundalk Garda Station.

“Thankfully the attackers were disturbed in the act and one individual was arrested.

“The fact that those responsible would have the audacity to mount such an attack at the Garda Station shows how brazen and emboldened these criminals are.
 
“I also think that it is possible that these criminals identified and targeted the Drugs Unit vehicle in particular.

“This attack further demonstrates the need for a fully resourced Garda service in Louth.  The Garda Commissioner must rethink any reorganisation plans which would reduce or dilute resources from Dundalk and Co Louth.”