POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Thu 15 Sep 2016 09:01 AM

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson, Declan Kearney MLA, has expressed his shock and deep concern following the publication of the Prison Ombudsman’s report into an investigation surrounding the serious self-harm by Sean Lynch at Maghaberry Prison in 2014. 

Mr Kearney said: 

“The report, published today, makes a total of 63 recommendations to the Prison Service and the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT). 

"I am deeply shocked at the detail of the Ombudsman’s Report. 

“It is clear that both the Prison Service and the SEHSCT failed in their obligations to ensure the care of Sean Lynch. 

"It is appalling that Prison Service staff watched him inflict terrible injuries upon himself for a period of over an hour while he shouted and cried in pain.  

"This case points towards an institutional culture which appears to give primacy to a security mindset within the Prison Service over the care and safety of prisoners in Maghaberry. 

“It has disturbing implications for the achievement of comprehensive prison reform. 

"The Ombudsman's report also raises cross-departmental issues for the welfare of prison inmates. 

“I have already discussed this case with the new Minister for Health, Michelle O'Neill, who requested a report from the SEHSCT earlier today. 

“I also understand that Minister O'Neill has had discussions with the Minister for Justice about the prevalence of mental illness in the prison population and I welcome their commitment to working together to tackle this problem.

 

"I will be seeking a meeting with the Prison Ombudsman to discuss his recommendations and wider prison reform issues. 

“I also intend to request a meeting with the Director General of the Prison Service to demand urgent action and ensure that such a scandal never happens again.

"Sinn Féin has already indicated to the Maghaberry Prison management that we will be returning to the prison shortly to engage further with inmates in relation to conditions on the integrated wings."  

POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Thu 15 Sep 2016 08:57 AM

 Independent Newry City Councillor Kevin McAteer has called on anyone who is suffering from depression to speak up and has reiterated how important it is to talk to someone and he has stressed that talking about your problems can save a life.

Speaking on the issue the Independent Councillor added:

“I know from personal experience how important it is to speak up when you are suffering from depression as I currently live with it myself following a suicide attempt in 2008. I can state right now that talking about my problems to my friends and family has really helped me deal with depression and I would advise anyone who suffers from depression to do the same. Make no mistake about it you are not alone.

The first step is always the hardest but I can only state from experience that it can get easier after the first step particularly when you confide in someone you trust. Furthermore you can always contact one of the local charities such as PIPS for help, as always they do great work and should be commended.”

McAteer has fiercely criticised the state of mental health services in the North of Ireland recently calling them poor and unsatisfactory.

“Due to my experiences I have been through the system and I can state now that the current services are terrible. We need to work together to develop a mental health service that is both effective and world class, a service that really helps and serves the needs to the people.”

POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Thu 15 Sep 2016 08:54 AM

Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has welcomed a decision by the Assembly Education Committee to invite the minister to appear before it to explain his recent decision on transfer test coaching.

The party’s Education spokesperson and chair of the Education Committee said:

“I welcome the decision of the Education Committee to invite the minister to come before it.

“We want him to give us an explanation for his recent decision to reverse Department of Education policy and allow primary school teachers to use up valuable class time to coach some pupils towards transfer tests.

“Sinn Féin is not alone in its opposition to this move.

“Churches, unions, school principals, teachers and parents have all expressed their deep concern regarding the decision to allow teachers to coach pupils for transfer tests.

“The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children report criticised transfer tests and a report by OFM/DFM linked academic selection to inequality and underachievement.

“In the Committee today, DUP MLA Maurice Morrow let the cat out of the bag when he said that Education Minster Peter Weir was fulfilling party manifesto commitments when he took the decision.

"I would remind the minister that he represents all our children, not just those whose parents have put them forward for transfer tests.

"In truth, I believe the minister needs to place much greater emphasis on addressing underachievement." 

POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Thu 15 Sep 2016 08:50 AM

 Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has welcomed moves to ensure that domestic water charges are blocked in the North. 

Mr Murphy said; 

"Today I brought forward a joint proposal to the Executive, along with DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen to maintain the Executive's policy of no domestic water charges.  

"I am pleased that the Executive backed this proposal and that homeowners in the North will not be charged for water. 

"Access to water is a basic right and we will ensure that water charges will continue to be blocked. 

"Sinn Féin remains absolutely opposed to the introduction of domestic water charges north or south."

POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Wed 14 Sep 2016 09:44 AM

 Sinn Féín MLA Declan Kearney said that investment in the rail link to Belfast International Airport could help transform the regional economy and to modernize local transport infrastructure. 

Mr Kearney said: 

“In my constituency of South Antrim there is along held local desire for the Lisburn to Antrim rail line to be restored.

“There has been a dramatic growth in the population within the wider Crumlin, Glenavy and Ballinderry area over the last 30 years with many commuting daily to Belfast in particular to work and school.

“The Antrim to Knockmore section of the Lisburn Antrim rail line runs directly past Belfast International Airport, yet there is no connection. 

“I understand the business case which argues that passenger numbers in the airport do not meet the criteria for a direct rail connection for Belfast. 

“However, if the proper standard of transport infrastructure including rail provision is put in place economic growth, new investment and population expansion will continue to follow. 

“I understand the Minister must contend with unremitting pressure on his Departmental budget; the impacts of worsening austerity due to British Tory policy; and the unforeseen economic and investment damage caused by Brexit. 

“Investing in rail services between Belfast and the regional airport; and also the Lisburn to Antrim rail link, should be seen as a strategic opportunity to help transform the regional economy and to modernize local transport infrastructure, particularly in my South Antrim constituency.” 

POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Wed 14 Sep 2016 09:34 AM

 Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan said that continued work with services that provide for pupils with autism is needed to ensure that the Executive’s Autism Strategy and Action Plan are implemented fully.

Mr Boylan said:

“I welcome the commitment from the Education Minister that funding will be made available to the Education Authority to ensure it delivers an effective education provision for the growing number of children with autism.

“There is an increase in the prevalence of autism in school age children.

“Services like the Middletown Centre for Autism provide excellent support for children with complex autism and offers professional training and research services to parents.

“These services are vital to children and parents alike and we must ensure that they receive funding so pupils can get a high quality education in order for them to fulfil their potential.

“Sinn Féin will continue to work with services like the Education Authority and the Middletown Centre for Autism and other departments to ensure that the Executive’s Autism Strategy and Action Plan are implemented fully.” 

POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Tue 13 Sep 2016 12:32 PM

 Border Communities Against Brexit is a group of people from all sectors – business, community, farming, and individuals, who have come together out of concern that the North’s remain vote will not be respected.

We are deeply concerned about the devastating impact that Brexit will have on this region and we want to make sure our voices are heard. 

It makes absolutely no sense to have one part of Ireland operating within the EU and another outside it.

However, the British Conservative Government insists that it will impose an EU exit on the north of Ireland against the democratic wishes of the majority of people living here. 

The prospect of a new EU frontier, stretching from Dundalk to Derry, is not something we can accept. 

A hard border in Ireland would create real hardship for people in this region who cross the border on a daily basis. We could very well be facing customs checkpoints, traffic delays and the closure of local border roads.  Neither the British Government nor the EU have been able to say that this will not happen. 

The British Government has no clear or cogent plan for Brexit and Ireland is bottom of the list of their concerns.  Article 50 has yet to even be triggered but already the uncertainty caused by the referendum result is damaging trade and investment and causing currency fluctuations which are impacting on cross-border business. 

Even all of that, however, will be overshadowed if we see the imposition of tariffs and the restriction of the free movement of goods, services and people on this island. 

Brexit will be detrimental to the economic future of the entire island but particularly the border region, delivering a devastating blow just as it is getting back on its feet.  

Trade, tourism and attracting foreign investment into the north will all suffer in the fallout of an EU exit while the end of EU economic support for peace-building projects and underfunded border areas will hit many vital community projects.   

Over the past decade the EU has spent over £1 billion in the north and border areas on projects for furthering the peace process.

Similarly, with the end of EU subsidies, farmers will suffer a dramatic loss of income. This will be a severe economic blow for rural communities as CAP accounts for approximately 80% of farm incomes in the North.  

New restrictions on cross-border agricultural trade would be a devastating development for farmers, particularly in border counties. Farming communities, north and south, have always worked together. 

We have no confidence that the British Government will replace any of this funding and indeed former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has previously all but confirmed they would not.

Opportunities will be lost for students who will no longer have access to EU research funding or EU schemes to study abroad and they will face additional costs and barriers if they want to attend college in the south.  

The GAA, an all Ireland organisation which plays a huge and positive role in community life here, will also be affected.  How will all island groups be affected by Brexit, will funding for rural clubs in the north be replaced, will players face obstacles crossing the border for games?  The British Government have answered none of these questions. 

No one who lives in border communities wants to see any of this. We do not want any barriers or borders on the island of Ireland. 

For this reason, Border Communities Against Brexit are mobilising for a major ‘Day of Action’ on Saturday the 8th of October against any strengthening or reinforcement of the border. The demonstration in this area will take place at the old Customs Post at Carrickcarnon at 3pm. 

We would encourage as many people as possible, including representatives from all political parties, to take part in this event to oppose the return of a hard border, to stand up for the right of the people in the north to remain within the EU, and for the votes of people here to be respected.

POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Tue 13 Sep 2016 12:28 PM

 Independent Newry City councillor Kevin McAteer has criticised the PSNIs facebook team. The criticism comes after the PSNI posted on their facebook on Monday night that they had closed off the road leading to Daisy Hill Wood following an incident.

Speaking on the issue the Independent Councillor stated:

“I want to take the opportunity to offer my condolences to the family of the person who tragically passed away. I understand the need for the PSNI to post that they had the road closed off and that no one should come anywhere near the scene , however I believe the situation via social media was handled poorly.

The comments should have been disabled preventing anyone from commenting under the post at all. Some of the comments under the status were disgusting and disrespectful and considering that someone had passed away, that person is a human being and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Therefore attempts should have been made to prevent commenting under the status.

Also the PSNI stated last week that they were looking for a man in a grey hoodie and black trousers and they warned the pubic not to approach anyone fitting that description…. the lack of information in this post effectively caused panic as that could literally be anyone in Newry.

Furthermore I am concerned that the family of the person who passed away on Monday night would have found out via social media as a result of what happened and they shouldn’t have to find out that way. Don’t get me wrong I understand the use of social media for community purposes and I know facebook is a very popular platform and means to communicate with the public. However I just think more sensitivity is needed in relation to certain situations as I received several complaints from members of the public about the status.”

POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Tue 13 Sep 2016 08:18 AM

 Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today planted ‘A Tree of Hope’ at the Muirhevnamor Community Centre in Dundalk in “remembrance of all of those who have died by suicide; those who have survived, including the bereaved families; and as evidence of our collective determination to encourage the allocation of more resources to tackle suicide.” 

The event was organised by the Muirhevnamor Community Council. The Louth TD thanked the Council for organising the tree planting and all of those groups and individuals who provide services for those at risk of suicide and self-harm. He also welcomed the announcement at the weekend by the Sinn Féin Health Minister in the North, Michelle O’Neill MLA, to launch a consultation on Protect Life 2 – a strategy for suicide prevention in that part of the island. 

Teachta Adams said: 

“I want to welcome Minister O’Neill’s initiative. This is an important effort to meet the challenge of suicide. The Minister for Health in this state also needs to review the current mental health and suicide strategies.“I believe that only through joined up mental health and suicide strategies on this island can we effectively tackle these difficult issues. A mark of Sinn Féin’s commitment on this issue is that our Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted on taking up this brief. 

“The 2017 Budget is due for publication in early October. This will be the real test of the government’s commitment to mental health services. There has to be greater investment in mental health programmes, including 24 seven access to services for people who need it. 

“Later this month as a contribution to this Sinn Fein will be holding a conference in Dublin on dual diagnosis. Sinn Féin will also be training our staff in suicide prevention practices. 

“The sad reality is that there is not a single family on this island that has not been affected by the challenge of mental health issues. Linked to this is the issue of suicide. It is now believed that the real figure for suicide across the island of Ireland is as high as 1,000 people annually.

“The emotional impact on families and communities is huge. Many are left wondering why someone decides to take their life and if they could have prevented it. 

“In the aftermath of a suicide, especially of a young person, the potential of others also taking their own lives is high. 

“I remember visiting the wake homes of four young victims from the Upper Springfield area in west Belfast who had all died from suicide within days of each other. 

“There is no single or easy explanation for someone deciding to take their life. In my experience the reasons can be many; mental health problems, loneliness, alcohol and substance misuse, an absence of hope for the future, can all contribute to suicide. There is also a clear and direct correlation between deprivation and suicide.

“In every statistical analysis that I have read areas of high unemployment and deprivation suffer greater levels of suicide. At the same time, suicide is no respecter of class or age or gender. 

“In addition this state has the fourth highest rate of suicide among teenagers within the European Union. The Psychological Society of Ireland called last week for a greater focus on the threat of suicide among teens. This requires the introduction of preventative strategies to tackle mental health issues among young people. Intervention at an early stage  is much better than trying to deal with the aftermath of a suicide. 

“Critically, an all-island suicide prevention strategy which coordinates mental health agencies on the island and manages resources more effectively is essential. Responsibility for this lies with the governments.”

POSTED By : DESTINATION NEWRY
Post Date : Tue 13 Sep 2016 08:13 AM

 Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has said effective legislation is needed to combat stalking. 

Mr Kearney said; 

"Stalking is a deeply insidious, invasive, psychological form of criminal abuse, with shocking side effects and consequences for victims.

"Despite that we still do not have a legal definition of stalking or effective legislation.

"Stalking is a breach of human rights and therefore undermines article 8 of the Human Rights Act. Yet here in the North it is not a specific criminal offence.

"Scottish law since 2010 has made stalking a specific criminal offence, and a priority crime. We should follow Scotland’s lead.

"Stalking is a crime which has existed for too long beyond the reach of the law in Ireland, north and south.

"This gap in our law should be closed by the Department of Justice and prioritised as an item of all island cooperation."