The Week in Review
23 – 30 June 2017
Grave questions surround DUP ‘solution’ to RHI debacle – Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA
Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is seeking an urgent meeting with the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) Kieran Donnelly following the publication of his damning report today into the botched RHI scheme.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: “Many ordinary people will be shocked to get confirmation that the RHI scheme cost us £27m in 2016/’17 and is on course to cost us a further £2m in this financial year. The £2m cost shows that Arlene Foster’s pledge in January to bring forward a zero cost solution to RHI was worthless.”
He continued, “The British public will be equally shocked to hear that they face a £22m bill this year for a scheme which in the words of the C&AG has, ‘serious systemic weaknesses in controls that have facilitated the possibility of funding that is at best not in line with the spirit of the scheme and at worst is fraudulent’. The projected costs up to 2037 for the north are around £70m and aprroximately £400m to the British Treasury. The C&AG raises serious questions about the viability of the DUP plan to rectify the RHI scheme, including the fact that the site inspections crucial to identifying abuse have not taken place.”
He concluded: “These revelations about the squandering of public money underline the vital role of Judge Coghlin’s public inquiry in getting to the truth of the RHI scandal.”
Negotiations need to be brought to an urgent conclusion – John O’Dowd MLA
Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said today that negotiations at Stormont need to be brought to an urgent conclusion – and called on the British prime minister Theresa May and the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to take direct responsibility in the talks.
John O’Dowd said: “After weeks of negotiations there is no agreement by the DUP on the issues, of Acht na Gaeilge, the Bill of Rights, marriage equality, anti-sectarian measures, integrity and legacy, which collapsed the Assembly in January.”
Mr O’Dowd continued, “This negotiation needs to be brought to an urgent conclusion. The DUP opposition to equality and a rights based society has been emboldened by their new alliance with the Tories. As co guarantor of the agreements it is time for the British prime minister Theresa May and the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to take direct responsibility.”
He concluded; “Sinn Féin is not prepared to accept anything less than full equality and the rights and entitlements that all citizens in this state should rightly expect. Citizens in the north should enjoy the rights on language and marriage equality, which are enjoyed by everyone in these islands. Sinn Féin will be supporting tomorrow’s march and rally in support of marriage equality in Belfast and see this morning’s vote in Germany as another step forward towards marriage equality.”
Legacy mechanisms must be implemented – Francie Molloy MP
Speaking from London this week, Francie Molloy MP reiterated that Sinn Féin remains committed to the legacy mechanisms agreed to at Stormont House and are resolutely opposed to any suggestion of immunity to British state forces who tortured or murdered Irish citizens.
Francie Molloy was speaking after attending a seminar in London on Monday hosted by the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) in conjunction with Amnesty International, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), and Matrix Chambers.
The seminar presented further evidence that torture was carried out by British State forces in the Six Counties.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Molloy said: “It was appropriate that on the 26th June – the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture – we took the time to examine these unearthed documents which prove – without any question – that British State forces were engaged in torture in Ireland during the conflict.”
He continued, “The documents exhibited this evening provide harrowing contemporary accounts of waterboarding, sexual assault, and electric shock treatment. As someone from the Nationalist community who lived through the period of conflict this is not the first time I have heard such accounts of systemic brutality and cruelty at the hands of the British Army and RUC. We always knew that such accounts were not fabrications. We always knew that the scars and bruises were not self-inflicted. These documents show the world that we were right all along. I welcome the fact that this seminar was held in London where its revelations will hopefully reach a wide audience.”
He thanked the Pat Finucane Centre for uncovering the accounts from inside the UK’s National Archives in Kew and in the O’Fiaich Library in Armagh – and for bringing them to wider public attention.
He concluded, “The evening’s discussion once again demonstrates the need for a holistic approach to the past. There can be no side deals on the legacy of the conflict. As a party, Sinn Féin remains committed to the legacy mechanisms agreed to at Stormont House and we are resolutely opposed to any suggestion of immunity to British state forces who tortured or murdered Irish citizens.”
Tory plans for EU citizens will harm north’s economy – Martina Anderson MEP
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said Tory plans about the rights of EU citizens will harm the north’s economy.
Martina Anderson said: “Many parts of the economy in the north depend on workers from across the EU, particularly the agri-food, hospitality and health sectors. In fact a recent report found that 91 per cent of contract labour demand at peak times is fulfilled by EU nationals in the hospitality industry.”
She said that the registration process proposed by the Tories was emblematic of their “scattergun approach to Brexit” and said that such a process would only “restrict the free movement required for these workers and, as a result, have a negative impact on our economy. The principle of free movement is key and should apply to all EU nationals across the island of Ireland.”
Ms Anderson continued, “All EU nationals, including those currently resident here and those who may come in the future, should have all current rights guaranteed post-Brexit. Those rights should be enforced by the European Court of Justice and the way the best way to ensure this, and the rights of EU citizens, is for the north to secure designated special status within the EU.”
She concluded, “Given the new axis between the DUP and the Tories at Westminster, the DUP now need to clarify if they will follow the lead of their Tory paymasters or act in the best interests of the north by protecting the rights of EU citizens.”
“Uniting Ireland – An Agreed Future” – Gerry Adams TD
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking in the Waterfront Hall last Saturday at Sinn Féin’s “National United Ireland conference – An Agreed Future?”
The Sinn Féin leader spoke on the theme of ‘Let’s talk about the future’. These are extracts from his speech.
Gerry Adams said:
“Republicans are neither naïve or insensitive to the opposition of unionists to the concept, never mind the reality of Irish unity…
We need a new approach, one which unlocks unionist opposition to a new Ireland by reminding them of their historic place here and of the positive contribution they have made to society on this island.
Instead of concentrating on the negative aspects of our four centuries of shared history I suggest that we embrace the areas of agreement and of co-operation; of good neighbourliness and the common good…
Rarely have we lived through so much change in such a short space of time. The imperative, for the peaceful transition to an agreed Ireland, will increasingly be the need for the ongoing social and economic stability and security and prosperity for the whole island and all its people…
The reality is that in the four hundred years of their presence on this island Protestants and especially northern Protestants, have been woven into the narrative that constitutes the history of Ireland…
While that narrative has been at times a troubled one it has also been dynamic. So, we have a shared history – we will also have a shared future…
Our task must be to ensure that it is a shared future which looks after every citizen, and in which everyone accepts the right of the other to be Irish or British – to be Unionist or Nationalist or Republican…
We need to address the future role of the Orange, its place in an agreed Ireland. Of course, that is a challenge also for the Orange and I invite their leaders once again to meet with Sinn Féin.
It is unacceptable for the Orange to refuse to meet at leadership level with our leadership. I have met with Orangemen as have other Republicans. These have been useful and necessary engagements. They need to be built upon.
Unionist leaders, including genuinely moderate people find it difficult to take public, as opposed to private, reconciliation initiatives. Or to publicly reciprocate to goodwill from Republicans.
Martin McGuinness’s resignation letter and his concern about this, should give thoughtful leaders of unionism some encouragement if they genuinely want to build a future based on mutual respect.
Perhaps they should tell us if reconciliation means the same thing to them as it does to the rest of us…
I would urge anyone interested in a united Ireland to join this conversation. Organise your own conferences or forums. Publish your proposals – for and against. Sinn Féin has already gone some way in doing this. For example, we are for a new Ireland with a new constitution and a Bill of Rights.
A new Ireland with symbols and emblems to reflect an inclusive Ireland, that includes the safeguarding of British Citizenship and recognition of the Unionist Identity. Others will have opposing or similar views to us. Let us hear them.The days of leaving the debate on a united Ireland for another time are over. It can’t be done. The debate has already begun. The changes – demographic, political, social and economic – are happening as we speak.”
Colombian Government must deliver on its peace agreement obligations – Seán Crowe TD
Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has welcomed the UN announcement that they have received all individual arms from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) combatants and that the FARC has announced it is no longer an armed group.
Teachta Crowe has called on the Colombian Government to deliver its side of the peace agreement and to urgently resolve its outstanding obligations, including the release of all qualifying prisoners.
Deputy Seán Crowe said: “I welcome that the UN has announced that FARC combatants have handed over all their individual weapons. The FARC leadership have declared that they are no longer an armed group and have moved to become a non-armed political organisation. This historic move comes 53 years after the war in Colombia began and is a hugely significant step in the peace process.”
He continued, “Colombia is at a crucial moment in its history and the Government must not squander this opportunity by dragging its feet and not living up to its own obligations under the peace process. I am conscious that Jesús Santrich, a senior FARC member and negotiator, is now on hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners who still haven’t been released under the early release mechanisms of the peace process. I understand there is huge frustration that the amnesty law isn’t being fully implemented by the judiciary and most of the prisoners have yet to be freed.”
He concluded reiterating Sinn Féin’s call for the Colombia Government to meet its obligations under the peace process, and to implement the amnesty law and release all qualifying prisoners.
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