Week in Review
10-17 December 2015
Governments must live up to their responsibilities on legacy issues
On 14 December Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness urged the British and Irish governments to `live up to their responsibilities’ on dealing with the legacy of the past.
Mr McGuinness was speaking after meeting members of the Justice For the Forgotten campaign group in Dublin to update them on the recent negotiations and the refusal by the British government to live up to its responsibilities on dealing with the past. He said there was `an onus’ on the British government `to address the legacy of the past’.
He said the `blanket veto’ of ‘national’ security `on releasing files to the families of victims about the activities of British state forces, agents and their proxies in unionist death squads’ must end.
Sinn Féin had, he said, brought forward two proposals `that would allow maximum disclosure based on three basic principles including the right to life’. He added, `the creation of an independent international panel of three judges to adjudicate on disputes around disclosure or to give full discretionary powers similar to those of the Police Ombudsman to the director of the HIU about the release of information.’ However, he said `the only thing the British Secretary of State has offered families is the right to an appeal, which they already have’. This fell `way short of what is required from the British government to deal with the issue of legacy of the past’.
He said the Irish government also `has a responsibility as co-guarantors of the Good Friday and subsequent agreements to challenge the British government over its continual failures to live up to its commitments on dealing with the past’.
Elsewhere on 15 December, Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard also called upon Theresa Villiers to `bring forward genuine proposals on how the British government will meet its responsibilities on dealing with the past’.
PSNI must be free to investigate Bloody Sunday killings
On 17 December Sinn Féin Assembly Member Raymond McCartney said that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) needed to be `free to carry out a full and thorough investigation into the murders of Bloody Sunday’.
Mr McCartney said it had been `established that people shot and killed on Bloody Sunday were murdered and PSNI have a statutory duty to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice’. He said the decision by the High Court in Britain that morning `to stop suspects being brought to the North for questioning is the latest in a long line of impediments put in the way of this investigation’.
He said the decision `doesn’t inspire confidence in the justice system and the PSNI need to be free to investigate these murders in the same way as they would with every other killing’ and concluded: `Sinn Féin will continue to support the families in their quest for truth and justice.’
Political institutions should work together to oppose austerity
On 10 December Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney said the Executive in the north of Ireland should work with counterparts in Scotland and Wales `to provide political leadership to oppose Tory austerity’.
Mr Kearney made his comments, noting a Scottish Trades Union Congress event expressing `anti-austerity unity and support for workers’ rights at a public rally in Glasgow, involving Nicola Sturgeon, Jeremy Corbyn and Yanis Varoufakis’.
He said this example set by the STUC `could be replicated with a similar initiative in Belfast’. He said the `regional executives of Scotland, Wales and north of Ireland should now provide joint political leadership on the importance of maximum solidarity and coordinated opposition to Tory austerity by the Trades Union Congresses, churches, and regional business, employers and voluntary organisations’.
Declan Kearney said that a `fair recovery agenda’ should be `common ground for civic society and progressive parties across Britain and Ireland’, adding `a positive axis against austerity, spearheaded by the regional executives of Scotland, Wales and the north, supported by the British Labour Party, the TUCs in Britain, ICTU, Right2Change, and other civic stakeholders would be a game changer.’
He concluded: `this would represent a powerful challenge to the negative status quo which is ascendant in Britain and Ireland.’
Sinn Féin `can deliver universal health care’ – Adams
On 15 December Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and party colleagues launched the party’s Universal Healthcare policy: Better4Health – A Sinn Féin Plan for Universal Healthcare.
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, said Sinn Féin had a plan for its vision for quality, accessible, public healthcare system, a world-class system of universal healthcare, accessed on the basis of need, free at the point of delivery and funded by the available fiscal space.
He said the launch took place `against a backdrop of multiple crises across our hospital network and in our health services generally.’ He said the crisis for health services was `spelt out in clear and unequivocal terms by the Director General of the Health Service Executive (HSE) Tony O’Brien in an interview published at the weekend. The frustration, the exasperation of Tony O’Brien is clear in every sentence’.
He said `The HSE, he told us, has been on ‘death row’ since the current government took up office in 2011. And the headline summed it all up – there is ‘no plan’, there is ‘no money’ and there is ‘no vision for health’ where this and previous governments have been concerned. Frontline staff in our health services see it no differently.’
He urged Health Minister Leo Varadkar `to commit to a realistic recruitment and retention plan for nurses, not only in our Emergency Departments but across the health services generally’.
He condemned as a `disgrace’ the level of dependency on trolleys in Emergency Departments and on hospital wards and corridors, adding `the Minister for Health needs to move into a higher gear, if such exists, and have this shameful situation comprehensively addressed’.
He said the `crises and the unacceptable waiting lists for access to consultants, access to procedures, access to treatments, access to day case attendances, are all products of a public health system that is under-resourced, under-staffed and, sadly, poorly perceived’. The health system was, he said, `built on inequalities, fostered by the political interests of those parties that have overseen health budgets through the years’, adding `they have commended and nurtured the two tier system of access that allows those who can pay buy their way to the front of the queue, time after time after time, while those dependant on the public system languish in pain and wait and wait and wait’.
He said the `shameful’ and `immoral’ system had to end, adding `the private healthcare industry, for that is what it is, has piggy backed and sucked our public healthcare system dry as it seeks to feed its insatiable appetite for profits’.
He said Sinn Fein’s vision was `of a quality, accessible, public healthcare system, a world-class system of universal healthcare, accessed on the basis of need, free at the point of delivery and funded by progressive taxation’.
He concluded: `We have set out a pathway to universal healthcare. This is a carefully researched and costed plan and one, I believe, that will have the support and welcome of all who truly believe in equality, of all who are truly republican. I commend our new health policy proposals to wider scrutiny and to the wider and necessary debate that I anticipate will inform and convince more and more healthcare professionals and the wider public of not just the merits of our plan but of how essential it is for all our healths sake.’
Details of Sinn Fein’s universal healthcare plan can be found at www.sinnfein.ie
Sinn Féin will continue to oppose fracking – McMullan
On 16 December Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has said Sinn Féin will continue to oppose fracking anywhere on the island of Ireland.
Mr McMullan said the party had `been to the fore in opposing fracking throughout Ireland’. He said the party’s representatives `have opposed fracking in the Assembly, in the Dáil and in the European Parliament and will continue to do so’.
He said that as British MPs vote to allowing fracking under national parks and world heritage sites `it is important that we send out a clear and united message that this controversial method will not be used in Ireland’. He concluded: `not only do the Tories have a total disregard for the welfare of communities as evidenced by their austerity policies, it is clear that they also have a complete lack of regard for the environment’.
Elsewhere, Sinn Féin MEPs reiterated their opposition to hydraulic fracturing during a vote in the plenary session in Strasbourg. Speaking after the vote, Martina Anderson MEP said the resolution during the debate on the Energy Union re-emphasised `that the use ofhydraulic fracturing entails risks and negative consequences for the climate, the environment and public health, and threatens the achievement of the EU’s long-term decarbonisation goal’.
She added `The report went on to state that hydraulic fracturing is not a promising technology and urges the Member States to refrain from any shale gas exploration and exploitation activities.’
She said that Sinn Féin had `been front and centre of the anti-fracking campaign in Ireland, raising the issue in the Dail, Stormont and the European Parliament as far back as 2011’. She said it had been `proven on several occasions to be detrimental in terms of the environment, health, agriculture and climate and we will not support any motion, resolution or amendment that says otherwise.’
After Paris Agreement government must take the initiative on renewables
On 14 December, Sinn Fein Dail Deputy Michael Colreavy, urged the Dublin government to increase its support for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
Following the Paris agreement on climate change Deputy Colreavy said it was `essential that the government takes the issue of climate change seriously.’ He said a `major influence on how we tackle climate change will be how we approach the issue of energy’. Ireland, he said, still heavily relies on fossil fuel for its energy supply, with the majority of this being imported, and `in order to tackle climate change, Ireland must produce its own energy from renewable sources’.
Sinn Féin, he said, believed that the best way to develop renewable energy `is in conjunction with communities, and the government must provide supports for community energy projects’. He called for existing state companies such as Bord na Mona, Coillte and the ESB to `take a serious role in renewable energy production’.
He said Ireland the government `must take the initiative to develop renewable energy and save on energy emissions as a key part of Ireland’s infrastructure’, adding `there must also be a diversification in transport and it is time to look at several initiatives as to how to help the growth of electric vehicles’.
He concluded: `The agreement reached in Paris is an important step forward, but Ireland and other countries have far more to do reduce of dependence on fossil fuels and move towards a green, sustainable future.’
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