Sinn Féin publishes Bill to reduce costs of Tribunals of Inquiry

Sinn Féin TDs Jonathan O’Brien and Pearse Doherty have today published a Bill which seeks to reduce the costs of Tribunals of Inquiry including the one set up last week to look into the alleged smear campaign against Garda Whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Speaking today Teachta O’Brien said;

“The government has established a Tribunal of Inquiry rather than a Commission of Investigation into the alleged smear campaign against Garda Whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

“This is a decision that we welcome and last Thursday the Dáil passed the extended terms of reference for the Tribunal of Inquiry without opposition.

“While there was no opposition to the terms of reference, a number of Deputies raised the potential cost of a Tribunal given recent experiences with other Tribunals.

“While the Minister gave a commitment to examine whether that legislation could be progressed, Pearse Doherty and I have today published our own Bill, the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Bill 2017, which would address the issues of costs.

“We have submitted it to the Ceann Chomhairle today seeking leave to introduce it as soon as possible.

“We are hopeful that the Government will accept the Bill and allow its speedy passage through the Dail.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that the Charleton Tribunal is allowed to do the important job of work it has been allocated without incurring the types of exorbitant costs which we have seen associated with past tribunals.”

Jonathan O’Brien TD calls for Garda Commissioner to step aside

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien, has called on the Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan, to step aside without prejudice during the course of the Commission of Investigation into whistleblower allegations.

Deputy O’Brien said;

“It is our understanding that Judge Charleton has been tasked with leading the Commission of Investigation into the whistleblower allegations that go to the heart of Garda management.

“Therefore, we are asking that Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan, step aside for the duration of the Commission of Investigation as she has been specifically named in these allegations.

“This is no reflection on Commissioner O’Sullivan or a comment on the validity of the allegations, but rather a statement on the need for there to be continued public confidence in the operation of An Garda Síochana.

“Morale has been at a low ebb in recent times in the service, and the public are entitled to see the Gardaí acting in a transparent and accountable manner.

“For that reason, we are calling for the Garda Commissioner to step aside, without prejudice to its outcome, for the duration of the Commission of Investigation.”

Sinn Féin question Minister over Disability Bill – Jonathan O’Brien TD

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice and Equality Deputy Jonathan O’Brien welcomed a Government Bill on ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, but said the Minister has questions to answer regarding the lack of consultation around the bill and that clarity is needed regarding many of its provisions.

The Cork North Central TD said:

“Sinn Féin support this Bill and have campaigned for years for full ratification of the UNCRPD, and it was a source of great disappointment that the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities was not ratified before the end of last year in line with the promises made by the Government that this would happen.

“I commend the work of the organisations such as Inclusion Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland who have worked tirelessly campaigning for the ratification of the Convention.

“However, we believe the Bill before the House this evening could have gone further in many respects and we have some very serious concerns about what the Bill has left out. We share the concerns flagged by many NGOs that there has been no public consultation with these organisations or with persons with disabilities on many aspects of the legislation.

“We are extremely concerned that the issue of deprivation of liberty will not be addressed until Committee stage as this is a core aspect that needs to be included in order to comply with the UNCRPD. This is unacceptable and we will be tabling amendments that address our concerns.”

Sinn Féin introduce bill to combat ‘revenge porn’ – Jonathan O’Brien TD

Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien today introduced legislation in the Dáil to combat harmful “revenge porn” practices.

The Cork North Central TD speaking in the Dáil said: “In recent years, we have seen problems arising concerning the matter of ‘revenge pornography’; that is the deliberate distribution of compromising photographs and videos of sexual nature throughout social media networks and on the internet in general.

“Very often, victims are faced with the prospect of not being able to tackle this with images left online that future employers can see. This can give rise to extremely negative repercussions in a victim’s life.

“This Bill is based on the work of the Law Reform Commission and we are hopeful that it will act as a starting point for a solution to the problems that arise.

“Persons who fall victim to this practice, and who have these images disseminated throughout Twitter without their consent, usually uploaded by an irate ex-partner, should not have to live with the response that there is very little that can be done about it.

“Further, this legislation also seeks to tackle circumstances where photoshopped images appear where a person’s face is superimposed on the intimate parts of another person’s body. It should be an offence for a person to distribute or publish an intimate image of another person without the other person’s consent, or to threaten to do so. This is intended to deal with the intentional shaming behaviour referred to as ‘revenge porn’.

“We in Sinn Féin would like for this Bill to be the starting point of discussion addressing the much needed and overdue legislative reform of this area and are urging all members of the Dáil to support it.”

Cannabis for Medicinal use Bill addresses health matters of utmost importance – Jonathan O’Brien

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice and Drugs Jonathan O’Brien TD has tonight outlined the party’s support for passage of the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016 to Committee Stage, where it will table appropriate amendments.

Jonathan O'Brien TD. (Picture: Eddie O'Hare, Cork)
Jonathan O’Brien TD. (Picture: Eddie O’Hare, Cork)

The Cork North Central TD strongly emphasised that the issues addressed by the Bill where matters of health and that he welcomed the Bill as “important initiative in the development of healthcare in Ireland.”

Speaking in the Dáil this evening this evening, Deputy O’Brien said: “We need to be clear that this is a health matter.

“Research has indicated that introducing medicinal cannabis legally does not have any crime exacerbating effect. The research findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalisation of cannabis products for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.

“It is Sinn Fein’s view that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

“In the past, myself and other Sinn Fein TDs called for Sativex spray and CBD oil to made available to persons suffering with conditions such as MS and Dravet’s Syndrome.

“We need to move towards an evidence-based model of depenalisation of drugs founded on international best practice, so that vulnerable drug users can access the supports they need, but also that persons who have specific medical conditions can access cannabis based medicines when they need them.

“It is bad enough to witness the pain of a loved one with a chronic debilitating illness where there is no prospect of recovery, but simply the vista of watching their condition slowly deteriorate until death – but to have to try and ease their pain under the threat of prosecution for providing them with a product that might ease their suffering is another thing altogether.

“Some parents are placed in a terrible position when their children have severe illnesses and conditions and they know that cannabis based products would ease their suffering, and yet they cannot access them, or if they access them, they are breaking the law to do so. That is not right.

“While we disagree with the mechanism that the People Before Profit Deputies envisage for the regulation of these medicines, we will support this Bill to proceed to Committee Stage where we will table appropriate amendments. It is our view that these products should be regulated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (which has taken over from the Irish Medicines Board) like any other medicine that exists.

“However, the important thing is that whatever structure in place, there must be meaningful access to it. It must not be introduced and then effectively banned through a series of insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles.

“It is an important initiative in the development of healthcare in Ireland and I welcome the opportunity to vote in favour of the Bill.”


Morris calls for Minister O’Sullivan to debate discrimination in schools



Cllr Séamie Morris of Sinn Féin has today called upon Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to take up the challenge laid down by Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien to debate discriminatory enrolment practices operated by most National schools. Many schools operate a religion-based admission policy, even when the schools are funded by the taxpayer.

90% of Irish National Schools are under the control one church, through the patronage model. All of those schools are funded from the public purse, both for staff salaries and for their running costs. Similar exclusion is practised by other denominational schools.

Cllr Morris said: “There can be no justification for discriminating against 4 and 5 year-old Irish children.”

“It comes as a surprise to most right-thinking Irish citizens that their local National school is permitted by law to discriminate against children because of their parent’s religion. But that is the case in Ireland today.”

“Strangely, it’s the Equal Status Act which allows this discrimination. It is referenced when schools are over-subscribed, and sometimes when they are not. This means that in parts of Ireland, children are often excluded from the school at the end of their road. Many parents are baptising their children just to get in to their local school.”

“My colleague Jonathan O’Brien met with parents whose children cannot access school places because they are not baptised. I echo his call on the Minister for Education and Skills to move immediately to repeal the legislation that allows this to take place.”

“This is shameful in 2015. In Dublin in particular, children make a two hour commute across the city to get to Junior Infants because the state permits religious patrons to discriminate against them for being the wrong religion or for having no religion.”

“Sinn Féin is committed to repealing the legislation that allows this discrimination to continue, including Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act.”

“Any law that permits exclusion of children from attending their local school isn’t a good law.”

“The Minister has responsibility for this, and if our Government cared about equality they would use forthcoming admissions legislation to fix this. Sinn Féin will table amendments to the act.”

In the meantime, Jonathan O’Brien has requested a debate with the Minister on the issue, and it only remains to be seen whether the Minister has the courage to stand in the Dáil and either defend or justify this discrimination against Irish citizens, by the Irish education system.”

This discrimination is happening on her watch, so I call on her to debate this human rights issue with Deputy O’Brien.”


Councillor Séamie Morris campaigns for equal treatment for all citizens. (Photograph by Teresa Collins, Portroe)