DOES MARY LOU MCDONALD NEED TO AMEND HER SIPO RETURNS ON JONATHAN DOWDALL’S €1,000 DONATION – 18TH JANUARY 2023

Did gangland criminal donate to constituency colleague or Sinn Féin?

Why did Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald record a €1,000 donation from criminal Jonathan Dowdall on her SIPO returns if it was intended for the party as claimed this week, a Fine Gael Minister has asked.

“Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin in Dublin Central obviously have some kind of issue – they need to work out who gave money to whom and check their own Standards in Public Office returns first before criticising others in the constituency.

“No one can agree who convicted criminal Dowdall gave money to – Mary Lou, Sinn Féin – who was it? Not even Sinn Féin seem to know, but no effort to correct the record either?

“The only thing that’s clear about Sinn Féin taking money from a gangland criminal is that they’ve no notion of giving it back

“Last Autumn, the Sinn Féin leader and her colleagues went missing from media for weeks when it emerged that she received a €1,000 cheque donation from Jonathan Dowdall who went onto to torture a man while serving as a Sinn Féin councillor. The following year, he helped facilitate a notorious gangland murder.

“The donation is there for all to see in handwriting on Deputy McDonald’s SIPO returns for 2011.

“However on Newstalk yesterday morning, Deputy Louise O’Reilly said: ‘The donation was made to the party but it was recorded by…uhhh Mary Lou McDonald’.

“On November 6th last on the same station, Deputy McDonald maintained that the donation was made to the Dublin Central constituency and spent on election expenses. Sinn Féin’s leader and her colleagues right up to this week still maintain this line despite it clearly being recorded on Deputy McDonald’s SIPO returns?

“This leads to the obvious questions, are the SIPO returns of Deputy McDonald accurate? Should Deputy McDonald correct them? Why not record it so on the party’s accounting books and include it in their financial statements for that year? Why did she record Dowdall’s cheque donation on her filings? It’s all very strange.

“How much more did Dowdall give to the party? He attended fundraising dinners with Deputy McDonald and Gerry Adams. He donated to these events? How much? In cash or a cheque? Where are they recorded? Where did the money originate from?

“Clear answers are also required on their €7,000 General Election poll in 2020 which they failed to return to SIPO for two years? What prompted them to make the amendments? Who brought it to their attention?

“The expensive poll was with a London based company. Was the invoice in sterling and euros? How was it paid? Which Sinn Féin paid for it? The six-county operation or the 26 county Sinn Féin?

“Those who are looking for answers on SIPO returns need to have a clear hard look at their own filings first on far more serious matters,” Minister Carroll MacNeill said.

FINE GAEL PUTTING MORE MONEY BACK IN PEOPLE’S POCKETS WITH TAX CHANGES FROM TOMORROW (1ST JAN) – 31ST DECEMBER 2022

Income tax changes announced in Budget 2023 that take effect from tomorrow will put more money back in people’s pockets to help them to better deal with the cost of living crisis, Minister of State at the Department of Finance, with responsibility for Financial Services, Credit Unions and Insurance, Jennifer Carroll McNeill has stated.

“In September, Ministers Donohoe and McGrath announced a personal income tax package worth more than €1.1 billion as part of Budget 2023,” Minister Carroll McNeill outlined.

“The aim of the package is to ensure people take home more of their hard-earned cash, that they pay the higher tax rate of tax at a later point and that those who are benefitting from the changes to the minimum wage are not negatively impacted by additional USC.

“The key features of the changes will see the main personal tax credits (Personal, Employee and Earned Income) increase by €75 from €1,700 to €1,775 and the standard rate cut-off point being increased by €3,200, going from €36,800 to €40,000 for single people and from €45,800 to €49,000 for married couples / civil partners with one earner.”

Minister Carroll McNeill said: “This means more people will take home more of the money they earn and that more households are further protected from the rising cost of living and impact of inflation.

“An increase in the Home Carer Tax Credit of €100 will also come into effect tomorrow, bringing it from €1,600 to €1700. This offers a greater level of support to parents who are caring for a child or dependent person at home. An increase of €1,625 to the 2% USC rate band ceiling will also ensure that a full-time worker on the minimum wage, who benefits from the increase in the hourly rate from €10.50 to €11.30, will remain outside the highest rates of USC.

“These changes are being made at a time when people are trying desperately to manage tighter household budgets and reduce their outgoings in a bid to make ends meet as the war in Ukraine continues to impact the cost of goods and services at home.

“Fine Gael in Government will continue to make adjustments to income tax, where possible, to ensure work pays and that people are incentivised to take up a job, go for a promotion or return to the labour market. People will see a difference in their next pay packet on the back of the changes made, giving them an extra few euro in their pockets to help them to in their daily lives in 2023.”

SUPPORTS REMAIN AVAILABLE FOR THOSE AT RISK OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OVER CHRISTMAS – NEW REFUGE DEVELOPMENTS BEING ROLLED OUT FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE 21ST DECEMBER 2022

New refuges will be made available in different parts of the country to support victims of domestic violence over the coming two years. In the interim, crucial supports remain available for victims of Domestic Violence, particularly over the Christmas period, according to Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said the development reaffirms Government’s commitment to tackling domestic, gender and sexual based violence and to increasing refuge spaces comprehensively in every county across the country.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael’s equality spokesperson, said: “It is vital that victims of domestic violence know that services and supports are available when they need them and acutely when they require shelter in an emergency situation.

“At no time is this more apparent than at Christmas which generally sees a marked increase in domestic abuse incidents when victims and in some cases their children often spend more time in the presence of an abusive partner.

“Provisional figures highlight a 9% increase in domestic violence reports to date this year, with almost 50,000 incidents already reported. Gardaí will continue to make contact with victims to provide reassurance, support and to offer the assistance of local and specialised resources over the holidays.

“Separate data released to me through parliamentary question reveals there are 44 services providing support to victims of domestic violence, 21 of whom provide safe accommodation in refuges.

“Currently, the number of specialist domestic violence accommodation units/family spaces is 181, including 149 refuge units and 32 safe home units.

“I’m pleased to be informed that ten locations have been identified as priority for new refuge developments that will deliver 82 new spaces from now to 2025. This includes Wexford where works are beginning before year end as well as Dún Laoghaire Rathdown where identification of a suitable site is under way.

“This year in the Dáil, I have named the 249 women who have died at the hands of men as identified by Women’s Aid, and those who remain missing.

“There is important coverage on national media on the issue of Domestic Violence, including “Until Death” a three-part documentary on Virgin Media and the ‘eye-opening’ documentary, “Undercover: Sexual Harassment – The Truth” on Channel 4.  However we have seen from a Garda review that the majority of murders in Ireland in 2021 had a domestic abuse motivation. This is astonishing.

“So we can ensure additional funding is continually secured to tackle DSGBV, we can ensure appropriate an appropriate RSE programme is in place in schools, we can support the Zero Tolerance Strategy that was launched earlier this year. But at the end of the day, abusers simply have to stop. They have to stop harassing victims, stop raping victims, stop stalking victims. Just stop,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

Preparation must begin now for a referendum on remote & proxy working – 15th December 2022

A referendum on remote and proxy working must be seriously considered by Government in 2023, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Fine Gael Equality Spokesperson, Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, was speaking following a sitting of the Gender Equality Committee, which has today produced its final report entitled ‘Unfinished Democracy: Achieving Gender Equality’.

Deputy MacNeill said: “Today’s report launch follows nine months of stakeholder engagement, and hard work by the Committee. This is an exciting opportunity and allows us to take a big step forward in terms of achieving real equality in Ireland.

“A recommendation within the report is a referendum on remote and proxy voting taking place within the lifetime of this Government. My own Private Member’s Bill, the Thirty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Remote Parliamentary Voting) Bill 2020, deals with exactly that and passed second stage in the Dáil earlier this year with cross-party support.

“This was also a key recommendation of the Forum on a Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament report last year.

“I look forward to this being a top priority for Government in 2023. The introduction of proxy parliamentary voting would make politics a more inclusive and family friendly career choice and ensure our parliament is more representative for the people of Ireland,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill

Mary Lou should give Dowdall’s €1,000 donation to Criminal Assets Bureau – 9th November 2022

A Fine Gael TD has called on the leader of Sinn Féin to give the €1,000 donation she received from criminal Jonathan Dowdall to the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The former Sinn Féin councillor, who tortured a man and then went onto facilitate the Regency Hotel gun attack and murder, donated by cheque €1,000 to Deputy Mary Lou McDonald in 2011 which she admitted for the first time, at the weekend, were probably used for election expenses.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said the Sinn Féin leader has done nothing to resolve the donation despite Dowdall being intrinsically linked to crime in her constituency.

“It’s like this. Dowdall is now known to be a gangland criminal and he gave money to Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin Central which she says was probably used for her general election expenses in 2011.

“And she has done nothing about it.

“Not given it away, not relinquished it to the Criminal Assets Bureau, not made reparation to a charity supporting victims of crime. Nothing,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

“Is she afraid of setting a precedent?

“She’s more than happy to ensure her frontbench TDs apologise for the potential hurt feelings of a respected civil servant. But she’ll do nothing about this, rather she insults every victim of crime in the country by doing nothing.

“She did nothing of use for Maria Cahill. She did nothing of use for Breege Quinn.

“You have to wonder what her real view on criminality is. We know she can treat categories of crime in her mind, but let’s be clear – Mary Lou McDonald has, in her own words at the weekend, probably used Dowdall’s donation in her successful 2011 General Election.

“And numerous media reports have placed Dowdall up close and personal to criminal elements in Dublin’s North inner city since he was a teenager. He took loans from them for his businesses, to meet payroll costs.

“The Sinn Féin leader is a Dublin TD. Dublin and her constituents have suffered immensely because of the likes of Dowdall and his ilk.

“She should give the donation away. Give it to the Criminal Assets Bureau. Give it to somewhere that will make proper use of it. But give it away and give it away now,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

Mary Lou accepted donation from Jonathan Dowdall – 6th November 2022

More than four years after he was sentenced for waterboarding, the Sinn Féin leader has admitted a donation from criminal Jonathan Dowdall was probably used in her successful General Election campaign, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said the truth about a €1,000 donation from the gangland criminal to Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, and published in her 2011 SIPO returns, is only slowly starting to emerge.

When asked about the donation, made by cheque in the same year as the 2011 General Election, on Newstalk’s On the Record, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald said, ‘it would have been spent on legitimate political expenses and probably election expenses’.

Responding Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “It has taken more than four years since Dowdall’s 2018 sentencing for torturing a man, while serving as a Sinn Féin councillor, for the Sinn Féin leader to admit what the criminal’s donation to her was used for.

“And now we finally have the truth, or at least some semblance of it.

“The leader of the Opposition, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald who wants to be Taoiseach, and talks about change, took a €1,000 donation for her successful General Election campaign from a criminal who has committed and abated in horrific violent acts while elected to serve as a Sinn Féin city councillor.

“Subsequently, the leader of the Opposition and most of her party colleagues have gone silent since Dowdall pleaded guilty for his role in the most notorious gangland attack in this country on September 28 last.

“Last month, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin would only admit to reporters that Dowdall’s donation was ‘spent’ but did not elaborate on what.

“Now we know. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald’s first successful General Election campaign during a recession when finances were extremely tight for everyone.

“It has taken six weeks for Deputy McDonald to appear before media to take questions on this and other concerning matters. However, clear answers are still required as this episode is extremely concerning.

“It appears from Deputy McDonald’s comments today that nobody in Sinn Féin seemed to know anything about Dowdall despite the fact that numerous media reports puts him up close and personal to criminal elements in Dublin’s North inner city since he was a teenager. He took loans from them for his businesses, to meet payroll costs.

“I genuinely can’t believe that Deputy McDonald and Sinn Féin had such a weak political network in Dublin Central that they didn’t know any of this regarding Dowdall, when as was said on radio today, there were numerous media court reports to this effect- this is either pretty embarrassing for Sinn Féin or just incorrect.

“It begs several more questions for the Sinn Fein Party leader.

  • What did she do in when Dowdall was first arrested in 2016 to find out where Sinn Féin went wrong? Something, nothing? Or was she not that concerned?
  • If she didn’t investigate then, what has she been doing since he was convicted in 2018 when it has been so widely reported, to learn where she and her party went wrong. Or was it just a glib line today?

“Separately and just as importantly, it is also deeply disturbing she still believes there is ‘no comparison’ between violence of the IRA during the Troubles and gangland violence.

“All violence, no matter who committed it or why, is wrong. That was the view of John Hume and it is not going to be retrospectively painted out of Irish history no matter how hard Sinn Fein try to justify and legitimise the actions of murderers and terrorists.

“It was never justified.

“The evidence is that even today, when it comes to Sinn Féin, there is a casualness about how they treat violence – otherwise why the failure to investigate and learn how they had among their party, people willing to commit and conspire in committing heinous offences and also provide financial donations to their leading politicians which we are now only learning of. This is a serious concern for this country,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill added.

Sinn Féin’s secrecy on criminal and torturer Jonathan Dowdall – 5th November 2022

Serious questions remain about what Sinn Féin and Deputy Mary Lou McDonald knew about criminal and torturer Jonathan Dowdall after he donated €1,000 to her and became a city councillor for the party, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said it has only taken the Sinn Féin leader almost six weeks to finally answer initial questions regarding her former constituency colleague since he pleaded guilty to his role to the most high profile gangland attack in this country on September 28th last.

“Deputy McDonald said she was “profoundly shocked” to hear of the criminality of her former colleague Dowdall today.

“She was more than happy to take a €1,000 donation from him in 2011.

“Several media reports regarding Dowdall and his court proceedings place him alongside criminal elements in Dublin’s North inner city since he was a teenager. He took loans from them for his businesses, to meet payroll costs,” she said.

“When Dowdall was elected a city councillor in 2014, Deputy McDonald was a leading Sinn Fein TD and at the epicentre of Dublin Central constituency for the party.

“So, in my opinion, either she and Sinn Féin didn’t have the local political network to be given the heads up on Dowdall – or they did, and didn’t care. “Is she fully up to date on all her other Sinn Fein party colleagues?

“Could we please know how Dowdall’s €1,000 donation to Deputy McDonald in 2011 and published on Deputy McDonald’s SIPO filings was used?

“Is it the only donation from Dowdall to Sinn Féin? Why the secrecy?

“Had a Fine Gael leader taken €1,000 donation from a gangland criminal and torturer, all would want to know, right down to last cent, what happened that money – and quite right. Dowdall waterboarded a man while he was actually a Sinn Fein councillor in January 2015,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

“In the last two months we have learnt one thing about Sinn Féin. They are top of the league when it comes to dodging issues and scrutiny when under a sustained focus. Clear answers are needed from the very top of the party on several topics including:

  • The proposed future sacking civil servants
  • Criminal and torturer in chief, Jonathan Dowdall and his 2011 €1,000 donation to Mary Lou McDonald
  • Questions on SIPO party returns related to property valuations
  • Terrible alternative Budgets that would have left people less well off
  • The question of strategic suing of media organisations, individuals and politicians
  • Uncosted energy price caps
  • Loans to party representatives

“But don’t expect to hear proper answers to these soon. Deflection and double speak are the top of Sinn Féin’s agenda this weekend,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

Parents of autistic children on mind altering drugs report years of no medical supervision by CAMHs – 20th September 2022

The Oireachtas autism committee today heard of a child given psychiatric medication by CAMHs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and left unsupervised for five years.

Fine Gael Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, who is on the committee, said the oversight responsibility needs to removed immediately from CAMHs.

“Today in the Autism Committee, we heard from parents whose children are given psychiatric medication by CAMHS and not supervised for months and in one case today, for five years.

“If you are a parent of a child with a neurological condition, such as epilepsy, the plan is clear. The child is medically supervised on medication, reviewed in response to physical growth and their experience of the medication.

“However, and here’s the main issue, if you are the parent of a neuro diverse child who requires comparable, mind altering medication, you are left on your own by CAMHS. 

“Parents report having to guess when to give medication, getting prescriptions with no follow up, and a failure to monitor a child for up to five years – despite significant physical growth and development. 

“This responsibility needs to be removed from CAMHS if they are that incompetent at delivering it either individually or as a unit.

“It is negligent to put a child on mind altering medication and fail to supervise it and any medical professional in CAMHS who is responsible for such an outcome should be referred for disciplinary action,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

Sinn Féin must clarify position on humanitarian response to Ukrainian refugees – 6th September 2022

Sinn Féin must clarify their position on providing assistance to Ukrainian refugees following the issuing of a divisive letter by one of its TDs to local residents, according to Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said Sinn Féin leadership have remained silent on negative remarks by some of their TDs on the humanitarian response to the war and whether they support the people of Ukraine.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “It’s been over a week since we learned that Kildare South Deputy Patricia Ryan wrote to constituents suggesting ‘significant conflict’ could arise between local residents and Ukraine refugees expected to move into modular housing units in the county.

“In the letter, Deputy Ryan stated that if the process is not managed right and the views of locally based representatives are not listened to, ‘the potential for significant conflict with host communities is significant, which in turn could be exploited by small far right elements.’

“In the meantime, party leader Deputy McDonald has failed to respond to these remarks and we now know that she is continuing her global tour with a visit to California this week to meet business and political leaders there.

“On Wednesday, she will deliver a keynote address in the University of San Francisco on the topic of ‘A Decade of Opportunity: Building a New and United Ireland.’

”However her representatives at home aren’t delivering a message of unity when it comes to providing assistance to Ukrainian refugees. They are happy to sow division, fear and create an atmosphere of ‘us versus them’ in the ongoing humanitarian response to this war.

“We need to know did the Sinn Féin hierarchy sign off on the letter issued by Deputy Ryan to 500 constituents and was it aware of its contents before it was issued? Does the party intend to issue this incendiary material going forward with the intent of creating division within our communities?

“We need Deputy McDonald and the party leadership to clarify their position towards Ukrainian people seeking refuge here and issue an unequivocal statement of support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”

Social media companies must be compelled to engage with parents on immediate removal of harmful content – 6th September 2022

Social media companies must be available, engage and be compelled to respond to parents who want harmful content removed immediately from their pages on behalf of their children, according to Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “A report from CyberSafe Kids published today details shocking examples of parents trying to get content taken down, only to be met with unresponsiveness by social media companies.

“Parents need to be able to stop harmful content before it takes hold and is disseminated online – there are many vigilant parents, but they should not be on their own when things go wrong.

“From my own experience as a public representative, the response from social media companies when I raise a complaint has been poor.

“Adults are better equipped to take personal attacks that can come at any hour of the day or night, but how is a child supposed to process that?

“Children need real protection from harmful content and from online bullying. There must be a 24/48 hour take down window when a parent raises a concern on behalf of their child.

“We have seen international models for this that work – in Australia they began with a child only model first before rolling it out to adults.

“Australia has been at the forefront of developing a legislative and policy framework for better online safety and putting an onus on social media platforms to prevent users from being exposed to or harmed by harmful content.

“When a complaint is made in accordance with their legislation, an eSafety Commissioner may give the social media service a removal notice requiring them to take all reasonable steps to remove the offensive material, and to do so within 24 hours.

“Social media can be a force for good, but when it becomes invasive and harmful to people’s lives, it ceases to be in the public interest to let it grow unfettered and to let children’s lives be destroyed by the bullying of the school yard invade their bedroom.

“This model must be replicated in Ireland, as social media harassment of children must be stopped quickly before it takes over children’s lives.

“An independent complaints mechanism is also essential and the speed with which social media companies respond to problems needs to be hugely expedited – for all but particularly for children.”

State must move away from short sentences that don’t work for victims and ex-offenders – Carroll MacNeill 31st August 2022

The State must move away from imposing short custodial sentences to a more victim friendly approach and to afford ex-offenders a greater opportunity at rehabilitation, according to Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill was speaking after Cabinet approved the Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform 2022-2024 aimed at creating a safer and fairer society.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael’s equality spokesperson and Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Justice Committee, said: “I welcome today’s publication of the Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform 2022-2024, which is focused on a more effective approach to the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into society with the aim of reducing crime and keeping communities safe.

“A key aspect of the review is reducing the use of short custodial sentences, especially sentences under three months, and exploring how the judiciary can be provided with a greater range of non-custodial sanctions.

“The bottom line is that short sentences do not work for victims, they don’t work for ex and low level offenders, and they don’t work from a State perspective when it comes to value for money due to a huge drain on prison and staff resources.

“The review contains six priority actions, which includes consideration of the incorporation of prison as a sanction of last resort in statute, in relation to people who do not pose a risk of serious harm.

“Another priority is the development and expansion of community- based sanctions, including alternatives to imprisonment to reduce re-offending and overcrowding in our prisons.

“As Co-Chair of the Oireachtas Group on Penal Reform, I have visited the Dochas Centre and Limerick Prison to meet staff and prisoners. I also recently organised a conference for former women prisoners in Leinster House.

“What they have told me is that short custodial sentences do not work, there is no rehabilitative therapy provided or entry into a programme to re-enter the labour force.

“More often than not, former prisoners end up back in the same situation they were in before their first offence, with some women going back into an abusive situation or circumstances where their risk of reoffending and ending up in a custodial setting again is greater.

“There were over 6,000 committal assessments last year which requires every inmate to undergo physical and psychological examinations, despite there being under 4,000 people in prison custody on average in Ireland.

“This requires time and resources which is redirected away from other areas such as rehabilitative programmes, such as adult education, jobs skills courses and mental health services.

“Fine Gael is the party of law and order and our mission is to build stronger, safer communities. This involves having a penal system that is fit for purpose and requires significant investment in An Garda Síochána and crime prevention strategies.”

Sinn Féin creating dangerous and hostile rhetoric on Ukraine refugee crisis – Carroll MacNeill 30th August 2022

Sinn Féin is creating a dangerous and hostile rhetoric on the Ukraine refugee crisis based on unchallenged remarks from some of its TDs, according to Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said it appears the party is using the humanitarian response to the Ukraine conflict as an opportunity to sow discord amongst communities in Ireland.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael spokesperson on equality, said: “Remarks from Sinn Féin representatives in recent weeks based on the ongoing response to assist those seeking international protection and refuge here have been extremely worrying and unhelpful in the extreme.

“We recently had Kildare South Deputy Patricia Ryan write to constituents suggesting ‘significant conflict’ could arise between local residents and Ukraine refugees expected to move into modular housing units in the county.

“The letter states that Sinn Féin supports the use of modular homes, but that the proposed sites are ‘far from ideal’, adding ‘these are areas with a very significant social housing need, where levels of homelessness are rising. Other public services including GPs and school places are under serious pressure’ she wrote.

“Deputy Ryan goes on to state that if the process is not managed right and the views of locally based representatives are not listened to, ‘the potential for significant conflict with host communities is significant, which in turn could be exploited by small far right elements’.

“It comes after her colleague, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, suggested the Government was complaining about spending money ‘on its own people’ yet it was ‘boasting’ about its response to assisting those fleeing the war here during an interview on the Mica redress scheme earlier this summer.

“To those reading between the lines, it appears the only party looking to exploit this conflict is Sinn Féin given the negative and dangerous messaging from some party TDs.

“As soon as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the Government moved quickly to implement the EU Temporary Protection Directive, which offers aid and access to shelter and the job market and education for refugees.

“This is the right and proper thing to do and both the Government and people of Ireland have been unwavering in their support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

“In addition to state services, the humanitarian response requires the continued assistance from the public, who have been nothing short of phenomenal thus far.

“What is unhelpful is attempts by Sinn Féin to sow discord, resentment and create an ‘us versus them’ narrative as has been demonstrated by some of its representatives.

“The latest remarks from Deputy Ryan have been met with silence from the party leadership, which speaks volumes about the party’s populist agenda on certain policy matters.

“We have also seen Sinn Féin failure to criticise Russia in the European Parliament, which is evidenced by their embarrassingly poor voting record. The same report from VoteWatch Europe in June found that Fine Gael MEPs have been most critical of Russia in recent years.

“In December last year, Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus also voted against an EP resolution to support Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and condemn Russian aggression against Ukraine and Russia’s military build-up along its borders.

“What we need now from the upper echelons of Sinn Féin is a clear and unequivocal statement of support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”

Reduce cost of childcare for parents, and ensure availability of places for children – Carroll MacNeill 19th August 2022

It is vital that the issue of extremely high childcare costs faced by parents in Dublin is meaningfully addressed, and that childcare providers are supported to stay in business so that parents know places will be available for children when needed, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality, said: “The Department of Children have got to get this right to see a meaningful reduction of costs for parents and secure the availability of places. This is what childcare providers want, and what parents need, and it is all the more urgent during this cost-of-living crisis.

“I met with the Federation of Early Childhood Providers earlier this week outside Leinster House as they held their third protest in relation to ongoing difficulties within the childcare sector. I have also spoken to many parents in my constituency facing ongoing high costs or the actual withdrawal of an offer of a place, in some cases affecting long planned returns to work following maternity leave with only a few weeks’ notice. They highlight ongoing difficulties in communication. How can we possibly support women and families with this kind of uncertainty?

“It is unacceptable that parents feel grateful to even obtain a place only to then pay what is tantamount to a second mortgage in monthly costs. The Department needs to get serious and recognise the pressure this creates for families. This is also the Department with responsibility for equality, so let’s hope that in the run up to the Budget, the two wings of the department can work out the policy cohesion and funding delivery to make life easier for working people, especially working women coming back from maternity leave.

“The ECCE Scheme has helped a great many families in providing free childcare for two years. However, there is a cohort of childcare providers struggling with how the ECCE scheme is being operated, particularly in terms of the administrative burden being placed on individual facilities. These are facilities who are trying their very best to provide childcare spaces right across the country, and in Dún Laoghaire, where right now childcare fees are the highest in Ireland.

“It is important to hear what providers are saying. If they’re saying the current core funding scheme is too difficult, then the Department must listen. I’m already aware of at least two childcare facility closures in my area this past month. This has a real knock-on effect: parents unable to return to work; unnecessary change and upset for a young child; loss of jobs for providers; and crucially, a loss of childcare space, which is something we just cannot afford.

“Parents, in particular women I have spoken to, are struggling to get back to work, or to stay in employment due to the current disproportionately high costs and lack of available places. Childcare providers are struggling to stay open. This absolutely must be addressed in Budget 2023.” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Fine Gael’s Gender Equality ‘Listening to You’ roadshow reaches Tipperary – Carroll MacNeill 24th May 2022

Fine Gael’s Gender Equality ‘Listening to You’ Roadshow reaches Tipperary on Monday, 30th May, with a public meeting featuring Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill and local Senator Garret Ahearn.

Carroll MacNeill, who is Vice-Chair of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, and the first woman to chair a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, will join Senator Ahearn at the Anner Hotel, Thurles for a public meeting at 8pm.

This is the second in a series of public meetings taking place across Ireland to inform and consult about Fine Gael’s work on the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality. The Committee was established at the start of this year to ensure the implementation of the recommendations made by the Citizen’s Assembly on Gender Equality.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “I’m really looking forward to hearing from the people of Tipperary on their views on gender equality. It is so important to me, and my Fine Gael colleagues, that the voices of people across the country are heard, and that we can represent them in the Gender Equality Committee.

“On Monday we will be meeting with a with a broad range of local statutory and non-statutory services whose work is crucial to the topic of gender equality eg. An Garda Síochána; Family Resource Services; Lone Parent support Groups; Disability Support Organisations; DSGBV services; Immigrant Support organizations. We will then hold a public meeting at 8pm which is open to anyone who wishes to attend, to listen and to contribute.

Senator Ahearn said “Come along and have your say on the hugely important topic of gender equality on Monday night in the Anner Hotel. We’ll have a range of discussions with stakeholders and groups focused on gender equality and talk about the things that we as a government need to do in areas like equal pay and domestic violence for example.”

NOTE:

  • The public meeting will take place at 8pm on Monday 30th May in the Anner Hotel, Thurles.
  • Pre-registration is not necessary.
  • The Fine Gael members of the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality are: Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD; Ciaran Cannon TD; and Senator Regina Doherty.
Sinn Féin to abstain from vote on Special Criminal Court yet again – Carroll MacNeill 24th May 2022

Sinn Féin will again fail to stand by the State and our criminal justice system by refusing to vote on the renewal of the Offences Against the State and Criminal Justice Acts, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said, “Sinn Féin TD Deputy Eoin Ó Broin has today reportedly stated his party will neither vote for or against the renewal of the Offences Against the State and Criminal Justice Acts in the coming weeks.

“This time last year, Sinn Féin representatives walked out and turned their back on the Dáil and refused to vote on the annual motion to reaffirm the legislation to protect the State from terrorists and witnesses from intimidation in the Special Criminal Court.

“By the sounds of it, we’ll be seeing the party pull the same political stunt again this year. How can Sinn Féin justify sitting back on the annual renewal of crucial legislation?

“Sinn Féin are continuing to refuse to take a stance on this issue and instead are planning to take the easy route out by not bothering to engage on one of the most important aspects of our criminal justice system.

“The Special Criminal Court protects our citizens in cases of intimidation and interference and has also been pivotal in our fight against gangland crime, removing dangerous criminals from our streets.

“As I highlighted last year, the continued high levels of jury intimidation over the past ten years makes the continued need for the Special Criminal Court clear as day. Figures from the Department of Justice show that over the ten year period to 2021, there were 92 convictions from 343 proceedings regarding jury intimidation or interference. Convictions have been particularly high in recent years, with the 2019 and 2020 figures the highest since 2011.

“As the party working to build stronger and safer communities, Fine Gael fully supports the renewal of the Offences Against the State Acts. We also recognise the need to continuously monitor and review the functioning of the Special Criminal Court, due to its particular significance.

“To not even bother to engage on this piece of legislation highlights Sinn Féin’s complete disregard for protecting the public and tackling serious crime. The Special Criminal Court is only ever used in exceptional circumstances, but when it is needed, it is used to remove crime from our communities and, ultimately, to protect lives,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Fine Gael’s Gender Equality “Listening to You” roadshow kicks off in Kilkenny – Carroll MacNeill 16th March 2022

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill will be kicking off Fine Gael’s “Listening to You” public meetings on Gender Equality on Monday 21st March in Kilkenny, in association with Deputy John Paul Phelan.

Carroll MacNeill, who is Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Party, and the first woman to chair a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, will join Deputy Phelan at Butler House Hotel, Patrick Street, Kilkenny for a public meeting at 8pm.

The public meeting will be the first in a series of public meetings due to take place across Ireland to inform Fine Gael representatives in their work on the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality.

The Committee was established at the start of this year to ensure the implementation of the recommendations made by the Citizen’s Assembly on Gender Equality.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “I’m really looking forward to hearing from the people of Kilkenny on their views on gender equality.

“It is so important to me, and my Fine Gael colleagues, that the voices of people across the country are heard, and that we can represent them in the Gender Equality Committee.

“We will be meeting with local community services such as women’s refuge support workers, Traveller support groups, migrant support groups and family resource centres. We will then hold a public meeting at 8pm which is open to anyone who wishes to attend, to listen and to contribute.

Deputy Phelan said “I’m delighted Kilkenny is the first stop in this very important series of public meetings across the country. I’m looking forward to welcoming my colleague Jennifer to the constituency to listen to the community.”

Proxy voting system will ensure our parliament is more inclusive and representative – Carroll MacNeill 10th February 2022

The introduction of proxy parliamentary voting would make politics a more inclusive and family friendly career choice and ensure our parliament is more representative, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill’s Private Member’s Bill (PMB), the Thirty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Remote Parliamentary Voting) Bill 2020, is at Second Stage in the Dáil today (Thursday). It provides for remote voting in the Houses of the Oireachtas in specified and limited circumstances in which members not physically present may vote.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “My Bill seeks to provide for a proxy parliamentary voting system to formally allow various types of leave, including maternity, parental and adoptive leave.  It will also future proof our parliament for emergency situations, so that we can ensure a smooth transition to remote voting should an emergency need ever arise again, such as during the pandemic where our legal advice was clear that remote voting was not constitutionally possible.

“This was a key recommendation of the Forum on a Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament report last year, and in my view is a crucial step towards ensuring our parliament is more inclusive and representative of all facets of our society.

“I want to remove the barriers to electoral representation for a whole range of people who currently do not see politics as a viable career choice due to their family care responsibilities. We must ensure our Parliament is more diverse than is currently the case, to ensure all of society is represented.

“Of course, childcare is not just a women’s issue and we shouldn’t think of it as such. However, the reality is that women do cite childcare and other family care responsibilities as a real barrier to entering politics. Our parliament, and the way in which it operates, is simply not family friendly, but this could be improved upon with provisions for leave in specified and limited circumstances.

“We have not yet resolved the issue of parental leave for parents of new-borns. Mandatory attendance to vote affects new parents, both women and men, and this needs to be resolved.

“Since the introduction of my Bill in December 2020, we have seen the first Cabinet Minister in the history of this State, Minister Helen McEntee, take maternity leave. Whilst this was facilitated, the arrangement was by no means a permanent solution, and only took account of her Ministerial duties and not her parliamentary duties.

“Proxy voting would also allow a member of parliament who falls ill and is immunocompromised to continue to fulfil their parliamentary duties.

“I look forward to working with colleagues across the political spectrum on my legislation in an effort to deliver a more inclusive and representative parliament that best serves the needs of all of society,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Substantial development opportunity for our defence forces in Dún Laoghaire harbour – Carroll MacNeill 9th February 2022

Major development of our defence forces is necessary following the Report of the Commission of the Defence Forces, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire, said, “This report now needs to be taken seriously so we as a country can be ambitious with, and for, our military. There is a need to get quickly to ambition level 2 and to provide a pathway to ensure that this State can properly protect itself and its surrounds and respond to the needs of our citizens in difficulties around the world.

“Brexit has proven that the stability of status quo cannot be taken for granted and we have a need to develop the security of the East Coast and the capacity to patrol the Irish sea effectively.

“The Report clearly identifies the need for an enhanced national Recognised Maritime Picture to monitor Ireland’s territorial waters and Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

“With that in mind, there is an opportunity now for the Navy to identify a future home for such a patrol and Dún Laoghaire harbour is the obvious place for that.

“It is half-way along the East Coast, it is a harbour location that gives the Navy full control to enter and exit as needed without commercial constraints of other operators and it has the space and berthing area that is suitable. It is a state asset that is underutilised and would provide the Navy with a suitable, visible and high-profile location from which to operate on behalf of our citizens.

“It is clear from today’s report that the Navy needs to be expanded both in terms of assets and location. I am calling on the Navy to now assess the Dún Laoghaire harbour for suitability and would welcome them to Dún Laoghaire.” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill. 

University Presidents need to step up to challenge and introduce mandatory consent classes – Carroll MacNeill 27th January 2022

Mandatory consent classes in all third level institutions must be introduced in light of the findings of the Report on Student and Staff Experiences of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment published by Minister Simon Harris, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Equality, said, “While the high level of responses to the survey first launched in April 2021 is very welcome, it’s extremely concerning that the majority of students who submitted a response felt they had experienced sexist hostility.

“The report makes for stark and difficult reading at times, but for many the findings won’t come as a surprise. 14% of respondents said someone had oral sex with them while they were incapacitated and unable to give consent. 34.2% of female student respondents reported experiencing non-consensual vaginal penetration either by coercion, incapacitation, force or threat of force.

“Our colleges and universities should be safe spaces for people to learn and develop without fear of intimidation, hostility or violence. The stark reality is that at the moment, many young people, in particular young women, feel threatened and vulnerable on a daily basis.

“It is time our University Presidents prioritise this issue and resource it accordingly.

“In light of the findings, it is high time for mandatory sexual consent classes to be rolled out across our colleges and universities.

“Minister Harris has led on the issue of tackling sexual and gender-based violence in third level institutions since taking up his brief. I am now working with the Minister and his Department to engage with Higher Education authorities to ensure mandatory consent classes are introduced in line with the recommendation to develop a programme of awareness raising, education and training.

“We must get to the root of the problem, of what causes people to carry out heinous acts of rape, sexual harassment, abuse, coercive control and more.

“As I have said time and time again, if we are to turn the tide once and for all against the wave of gender-based violence, discrimination, and sexual harassment in Ireland, we need to urgently rethink the education of our young people,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Exemption necessary to grant travel passes for people with epilepsy – Carroll MacNeill 2nd January 2022

An exemption is needed to grant access to the free travel scheme to people with epilepsy who are unable to drive, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality, said, “One of the most significant impacts a diagnosis of epilepsy brings is the effect it can have on an individual’s independence and their ability to drive.

“There are many people with controlled epilepsy, but for those whose illness is uncontrolled, about 30% of people with epilepsy, they will never drive. This can be severely limiting, with many people relying on public transport.

“There are also huge practical implications for people who have been driving for years, and suddenly after a seizure, find themselves off the road for 12 months. The simple tasks of travelling to work, transporting children, and going shopping are instantly made much more difficult.

“While the free travel pass is normally based on the social welfare payment a person is in receipt of, a medical exemption has been made for people who are blind. A similar exemption is needed in this situation whereby people are told by the State to stay off the road for medical reasons.

“This is an issue that affects around 5,575 people across the country. It is a relatively small number, but for those who experience a seizure or are unable to have control over their illness, the impact really is huge. For many people it means a loss of independence, and for some it can even mean a loss of earnings.

“I recently raised this issue in the Dáil with Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys. I welcome her engagement and in particular her decision to meet with Epilepsy Ireland to discuss their proposal for travel passes. I very much look forward to hearing the outcome of this meeting in the first quarter of 2022.

“Engagement is also needed from Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, and I hope to see serious progress on this over the coming months to give freedom and independence back to those who urgently need it,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

 

Ability to apply for driving licence affords greater freedom to people living in direct provision – 18th December 2021

The announcement yesterday that those living in direct provision are now eligible to apply for learner permits and driving licences will give people greater freedom and independence, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality, said, “Up until yesterday’s announcement, people living in direct provision have been unable to apply for a learner permit or driving licence.

“I have met with advocacy groups, charities and NGOs who have all raised this issue with me. But most importantly, this matter has been consistently raised with me directly by residents in direct provision centres whenever I have met with them.

“Since these conversations, I have raised the issue time and again with Minister Naughton, Minister O’Gorman, Minister McEntee and Minister Ryan to seek a resolution. The Department of Transport have been working on a solution through legislation, which had been expected to progress further early next year.

“However, yesterday’s development is a positive end to a year where we have seen monumental action on ending direct provision, including an extra €41 million for international protection and the work to dismantle the direct provision system.

“Earlier this year, I spoke with a mother who was walking her young children to school on narrow country roads due to a lack of suitable transport. People, parents and families in direct provision face practical issues in their lives every day, particularly with transport which presents further difficulties in accessing school and labour opportunities.

“The announcement that all people in direct provision and international protection can apply for learner permits and driving licences affords greater freedom, particularly to direct provision residents living in centres in more isolated and rural areas.

“The commitment to end the direct provision system by 2024 is crucial. But the actions we take along the way are equally as important in affording people basic privileges. We have seen progress on the entitlement to open bank accounts and now today’s announcement that those in direct provision can apply for an Irish driving licence.

“We remain on the path to a fairer and more compassionate system, and although work remains to be done, I am confident of the commitment of our Government to end direct provision,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

New regularisation scheme will help employment transition – 3rd December 2021

A landmark scheme to regularise long-term undocumented migrants will increase tax and benefit the State labour market as workers transition into regular employment, a Fine Gael TD has said.

 

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality, said, “I welcome this scheme so much, having worked with migrants’ rights groups on it for some time. I particularly welcome the inclusion of documented asylum seekers.

 

“It is important to recognise that I have heard concerns about this as being an amnesty for illegal immigrants, but I really hope people will look at this in the round – not just in terms of inclusivity and empathy but in terms of practical benefits to the state and all its people and the opportunities for an already hard-pressed labour market in key sectors.

 

“As well as the hugely positive impact it will have on the lives of the undocumented, some of whom have had very complex lives and situations over the past number of years, this scheme is of important economic benefit to the State as tax intakes will likely increase into the future.

 

“Thousands of migrants who are currently employed in the shadow economy will transition into tax-paying employment after becoming regularised. This will benefit our labour market, at a time when we’re facing shortages in some sectors. We will also see a significant increase in our income tax and social security contributions.

 

“I have heard concerns in the past from Irish businesses who have felt prejudiced against by being undercut by the shadow economy in their sector. We know that many long-term undocumented migrants are currently employed in the shadow economy and are often working long hours for low wages, which makes things harder for other Irish businesses who would never exploit people like that.

 

“This scheme helps regularise work everywhere and should lead to greater fairness overall. We are talking about many people who are already working here, but in vulnerable conditions and not paying tax. Let’s give them a structure to work here legally, pay tax and have better security in their lives.

 

“While there is no completely reliable data on the numbers who might avail of the scheme yet, we can see that in a scenario with 10,000 adults and 4,000 children, where 90% of the adults are in employment, the earnings at minimum wage or average salary would amount to €183 million or €440 million respectively, which would be taxable and taxed.

 

“On the State side, the economy will benefit from this income tax and social security contributions as well as meeting labour market needs. For individuals already here and working, this is a life-changing opportunity to be fully part of Irish society and the Irish economy. It’s a win-win situation, as well as the right thing to do,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Inclusive, fact-based RSE programme is crucial to ending sexual violence – 24th November 2021

Our current relationship and sexual education (RSE) curriculum requires urgent updating to be brought into the 21st century and turn the tide against sexual and gender-based violence once and for all, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Equality, said, “We urgently need a new and inclusive RSE programme throughout our primary and secondary schools, a programme rooted in respect, consent and science. A programme that is not religion based, but fact and equality based. There needs to be a programme that reflects the settled law of this land and government policy.

“If we are to turn the tide once and for all against the wave of gender-based violence, discrimination, and sexual harassment in Ireland, we need to urgently change the education of our five-year olds and beyond.

“I have been working on this issue since my election almost two years ago. I, alongside Pamela O’Leary, a Guidance Counsellor based in Cork Educate Together, worked to flag and fix a practical issue within existing RSE materials. That issue was the availability of homophobic, sexist and misogynistic teaching material.

“From my engagement with students throughout this time, particularly with secondary school pupils and representatives from Student Unions, I have heard how students themselves want a new curriculum which teaches them about sexual health, consent, equality, and personhood. They want a curriculum that is free from discrimination and religious influence.

“I have raised this over 12 times in Dáil Éireann to date and the Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill 2021, brought before the Dáil today by the Social Democrats, is another opportunity to discuss the details of this issue.

“I don’t believe legislation is needed to implement a different sexual education curriculum, it can be done without it, but today’s Bill does bring this issue to the attention of the Oireachtas and the Government yet again, which I very much welcome.

“In Budget 2022 the Government allocated increased funding for combatting Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (DSGBV). This, along with increased funding for victim supports is extremely necessary and welcome. However, as I have said previously, these supports will only be a sticking-plaster – they will never fix the injury.

“I visited the Men’s Aid office in Dolphin House earlier this week and heard first-hand the male experience of abuse. It is clear that this is not solely a gender specific issue – abuse, harassment and violence is experienced by people across every walk of life.

“We must get to the root of the problem, of what causes people to carry out heinous acts of rape, sexual harassment, abuse, coercive control and more. This can be done through early and age-appropriate education.

“What I am hearing is that when we arm people with the education and knowledge to identify abuse, to identify coercive control, to call out what is and is not acceptable, individuals are empowered to put a stop to it, to walk away and to get help. But this is often learned after the fact, and many times, is too late.

“It appears the rollouts of updated programmes are happening consecutively, one after the other, as opposed to in tandem with each other. It is vital we know what stage the primary and senior cycle programme development is at, and what year we can expect training for teachers and the rollout in schools.

“Until we educate and empower our young people, how can we expect anything to change for the next generation,” asked Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

A woman’s place is in the House – Leinster House! – Carroll MacNeill Dáil agrees Oireachtas Special Committee on Gender Equality 9th November 2021

Speedy action is now needed to ensure the Oireachtas Special Committee on Gender Equality is up and running before the end of the year, a Fine Gael TD has said.

A motion on the establishment of an Oireachtas Special Committee on Gender Equality came before the Dáil this afternoon, as a result of Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill’s proposal to establish the committee last July.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “The need for this committee is clear as day. Women cannot wait any longer for equality. That’s equality at home, in work, in their pay and in their representation in the Oireachtas.

“It is fitting that the day after Equal Pay Day, the day from which women effectively work for free for the rest of the year having regard to the 14.4% gender pay gap, the Dáil has agreed now to establish this special and dedicated Oireachtas Committee to advance the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality.

“As an indicator of the clear political will for improving gender equality, we must now expedite progress on the establishment of the Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality to have it up and running by the end of the year.

“What we really want is to see tangible improvements for the women of Ireland in every facet of work, home, arts, culture, sport and education. Politics reflects that cultural position, and of course it is the essence of the representation of women in decision making positions.

“We’ve been talking about ‘women in politics’ for years and it’s now high time to send out a strong message that a woman’s place is absolutely in Leinster House. Today only 22.5% of TDs are women, painting a very stark picture of the Oireachtas in terms of gender equality.

“We need to see the Committee functioning before Christmas to move these recommendations on with haste. It’s time to get on with it now, please and thank you.”

The Fine Gael Women’s Network has been active on this issue for months; the group submitted a motion at this year’s Fine Gael Ard Fheis calling for a clear timetable for the review and implementation of the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations, as well as for the establishment of a dedicated Oireachtas Committee as an important first step.

Speaking today, members of the Network said, “We’re delighted to see further progress today on the establishment of a Committee to ensure recommendations made by the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality are implemented.

“Equality, and equality of opportunity is at the core of Fine Gael principles, and we urge the Oireachtas to maintain the momentum on establishing this Committee. Women can’t wait.”

Introduction of proxy parliamentary voting system can be achieved through enactment of remote voting Bill – Carroll MacNeill 5th November 2021

The first priority recommendation of the report from the Forum on a Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament for a proxy parliamentary voting system can be achieved through the enactment of Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill’s Private Member’s Bill (PMB).

The Fine Gael TD introduced a Bill last December to allow for remote voting in the Houses of the Oireachtas in specified and limited circumstances in which members not physically present may vote.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “The report published this week from the Forum on a Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament includes a range of aspects which I believe will make the Houses of the Oireachtas a more family friendly and gender sensitive workplace, in particular the need for childcare and the reduction of unfriendly hours. The Report included 51 general recommendations, as well as five priority recommendations.

“The first of the priority recommendations advocates for the introduction of a formal provision for various types of leave, including maternity, parental and adoptive leave, which would be facilitated by a proxy parliamentary voting system.

“This priority recommendation is exactly what my Private Member’s Bill sets out to do. Last year, I introduced the Thirty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Remote Parliamentary Voting) Bill 2020 which enables each House of the Oireachtas to make provisions for remote or proxy voting in its rules for specific circumstances in which members not physically present in the House may vote.

“Since the introduction of my Bill in December 2020, we have seen the first Cabinet Minister in the history of this State, Minister Helen McEntee, take maternity leave. Whilst this was facilitated, the arrangement was by no means a permanent solution.

“The implementation of this recommendation will have positive impacts on the second and fourth priority recommendations in particular; to increase the representation of women on Oireachtas Committees and to increase diversity in our Parliament, respectively.

“I have written today to the Ceann Comhairle and Taoiseach again to highlight my Bill and I hope that it may be included in any discussions about upcoming referendums,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Selective Sinn Féin justice for some, but not for all – Carroll MacNeill 1st November 2021

Deputy Martin Kenny’s comments on the Special Criminal Court at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis only further highlight the fact that his party still has no regard for the role of the court, arguing its use is acceptable to pursue justice for some but not for all, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said, “During his speech at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Deputy Martin Kenny alleged that the Offences Against the State Acts were used in the ‘past for political convenience in times of conflict against republicans’. He went on to say that we need non-jury courts to protect communities against gangland crime and intimidation – but failed to mention the need for such courts when it comes to terrorist offences.

“Criminal activity is now, and always has been, criminal activity, and it is no less scary to be threatened by someone with paramilitary links than by a drug gang. Deputy Kenny referred to the natural fear that would be felt by those asked to appear in front of gangland criminals. How does he imagine ordinary people would feel if asked to preside over a case involving terrorists?

“How does the purported Minister for Justice make that distinction in his mind? And what will it mean for the future?

“It is clear that despite the smooth assurances of his party leader that ‘we mean dissidents too’, a very clear line of separate thinking remains at the top of Sinn Féin when it comes to the use of non-jury courts, no matter how shiny the glossy presentation.

“This is the very definition of Deputy Kenny speaking out of both sides of his mouth and shows that under a Sinn Féin government, it will be justice for some – but Sinn Féin will be defining the ‘some’.

“Given that the purported Minister for Justice has such a distorted view of the role of our courts, could we be sure that people with links to paramilitary forces would face prosecution under Sinn Féin proposals?

“Deputy Kenny’s comments also completely undermine the court convictions of criminals with paramilitary links to date. In one sentence the purported Minister showed his continued, up to this present day, disregard for the workings of our courts – when it comes to ‘Republicans’.

“You can’t politically pick and choose your current or past criminals Deputy Kenny. You can’t pick and choose which courts and their convictions are legitimate or not.

“What is also in keeping with Sinn Féin is the total absence of detailed policy on this issue. Deputy Kenny is a politician lining himself up to be a future Minister for Justice, yet on the issue of a hugely important feature of our criminal justice system, all he and his party have produced is a half-page motion. It’s easy to write up a motion for an Ard Fheis, but if Sinn Féin truly consider themselves a potential Government party, yet again, we ask the question: where is the policy?

“Not a single criminal justice policy position has been published on the Sinn Féin website since the General Election in 2020 – notwithstanding the considerably enhanced resources available to Sinn Féin since then.

“Serious questions remain regarding the proposed functioning of our criminal justice system under Sinn Féin, yet when it is time to actively engage on the issue, we see party TDs simply walk out of the Dáil. When it comes to voting on the Offences Against the State Acts next year, will Sinn Féin avoid their parliamentary duties in favour of a political stunt and once again abstain?” Deputy Carroll MacNeill asked.

Jury intimidation figures reveal continued need for Special Criminal Court – Carroll MacNeill 30th October 2021

While Sinn Féin believe there is “no place” for the Special Criminal Court, high levels of jury intimidation and gangland terror illustrate exactly why we need to protect the place of the Court within our judicial system, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said, “Sinn Féin might not recognise the need for the Special Criminal Court, but the continued jury intimidation over the past ten years makes the need for the Court clear as day.

“Figures from the Department of Justice reveal that from 2011 to 2021, there have been 92 convictions from 343 proceedings regarding jury intimidation or interference. Convictions have been particularly high over the past three years, with the 2019 and 2020 figures the highest since 2011.

“This level of intimidation has knock-on implications for our Courts and interferes with the running of our justice system. Just over a decade ago, we saw only one in five people called for jury service in Limerick trials turning up due to fear of intimidation. The role of the Special Criminal Court is to protect our citizens in cases of intimidation and interference.

“The need to retain the Court has also been extolled by members of An Garda Síochána who are on the front lines in our fight against gangland crime. The Court has allowed for the speedy prosecution of cartel hit teams. Removing these criminals from our streets has significantly reduced murders and efficiently tackles gangland crime.

“Fine Gael supports the renewal of the Offences Against the State Acts and the Special Criminal Courts. However, due to the particular significance of the Special Criminal Court, both regular monitoring and reviews of the Court are needed to ensure it continues to function in an appropriate and effective way.  The Oireachtas continuously monitors its functioning, and debates and votes on it on an annual basis. A review of the Offences Against the State Act is also currently being led by Mr Justice Michael Peart, former Judge of the Court of Appeal – which I very much welcome and believe is necessary

“We’ve seen Sinn Féin’s complete lack of respect for protecting our jurors and disregard for even engaging on this issue. During the Summer, Sinn Féin had their chance to vote for the Special Criminal Court but chose to walk out of the Dáil. Rather than using their privilege as TDs to participate, they left the room and simply abstained from voting.

“Sinn Féin’s motion and comments make it clear that Deputy McDonald will lead her TDs on more walkouts when the Dáil votes again on the Special Criminal Court next year and in future years.

“Sinn Féin are spinning a false narrative about the Special Criminal Court. On one hand, they don’t envisage any place within our judicial system for the Court, yet just this morning Deputy McDonald expressed her support for a non-jury court in exceptional circumstances. One thing needs to be made very clear on this issue; the Special Criminal Court is only ever used in exceptional circumstances.

“It is used to protect citizens in gangland and terrorist trials. It is used to take criminals off our streets. It is used to tackle drug cartels. And most importantly, it is used to protect lives,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

First major reform of Carer’s Allowance in over a decade will positively impact families – Carroll MacNeill 12th October 2021

The publication of Budget 2022 today includes the first major reform of Carer’s Allowance in over a decade, as well as a very welcome expansion of the Domiciliary Care Allowance, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said, “After working with families on the issue for the past 18 months, I’m delighted to see a big change to the Carer’s Allowance in Budget 2022 whereby the means test will be broadened to allow couples with a weekly income of up to €750, and single people with a weekly income of up to €350, to receive the payment. There will also be an increase in the capital disregard for Carer’s Allowance to €50,000. This is an increase of €30,000 from the current capital disregard of €20,000. This reform will be implemented in June 2022.

“There will also be a change to the Domiciliary Care Allowance, which will now be paid for children who are in hospital for a period of six months, as opposed to the current three-month period. This will be implemented from January 2022. Additionally, there is a commitment from the Department of Health to reduce the financial burden of hospital charges for children in hospital. On this issue, I encourage Minister Donnelly to listen to the group of people I have been in touch with as we have strong experience on what is needed.

“Qualification for a full or partial Carer’s Allowance was first raised with me by local families affected by the issue during the General Election in the early weeks of 2020, and again after my election in April 2020. The families, like so many others, had gone from a two-income household to a one-income household when their child became ill, and faced greatly increased medical and hospital travel related bills.

“The costs faced by families with seriously ill children is something I, and my colleague Councillor Vicki Casserly, have seen personally through our experiences of the paediatric hospital system. We met Minister Heather Humphreys in February 2021 to set out what we thought was needed in Budget 2022 – namely getting more families into the threshold for the Carer’s Allowance, as well as a substantial change to the Domiciliary Care Allowance.

“In April of this year, Councillor Casserly and I met families with seriously ill children from all over Ireland to make sure we were taking the right approach in seeking additional supports for families during their most vulnerable time. This public meeting was also attended by the CEO of Children in Hospital, Anna Gunning, and the Chairperson of Ronald McDonald House, Marian Carroll. These are two organisations that see and experience, on a daily basis, the practical issues faced by families with a child suffering from a long-term illness.

“Since then, I have worked closely with Councillor Vicki Casserly to deliver positive, constructive change to tackle the financial burden faced by parents of children in hospital.

“Councillor Casserly and I hope that today’s announcement will bring some relief to families in this most vulnerable and stressful time. We know well just how tough it can be, and we are glad to see this strong step towards achieving better support for them.

“I will continue to work with and advocate for families and parents of children who require long term care and hospital stays. This is the first step in helping families living in the most difficult of circumstances and making their lives just that bit easier. I want to thank Minister Humphreys and Minister Donnelly for backing these important changes for families with very seriously ill children” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Discriminatory restrictions on blood donations should be changed – Carroll MacNeill & Buttimer 26th September 2021

Ireland should follow the UK’s lead in changing blood donation rules so eligibility to donate is based on individual circumstances regarding travel, health and sexual behaviour, rather than gender or sexuality, Fine Gael TD and Senator have said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill and Senator Jerry Buttimer today pointed out the UK recently changed their blood donation rules so that all donors, regardless of gender or sexuality, face the same questions and eligibility criteria.

These new rules replaced discriminatory restrictions on donations from gay and bisexual men, but men in Ireland are still subject to such discrimination.

Senator Buttimer said, “A lifelong ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men was introduced during the HIV epidemic in the 1980s and was only changed relatively recently in Ireland.

“This ban was reviewed by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) in 2016 in light of changes to deferral criteria in other countries. In 2017, due to data which showed no increase in the number of HIV positive blood donations since the change in policy, the lifelong ban was removed and replaced with a one-year deferral.

“Despite the removal of the lifelong ban, gay and bisexual men in Ireland still face overly restrictive rules on donating blood. Currently, a man who has had sex with another man in the past 12 months is not eligible to donate blood. Even if he has used a condom or is taking the HIV medication PrEP, once a man has had sex with a man in the last 12 months, he is automatically excluded.

“Our current rules are outdated, discriminatory and unfair. Neither women nor heterosexual men face the same level of scrutiny when they walk through the doors of a donation clinic – why should gay and bisexual men be subject to different rules than anyone else?

The rules must be based on an accurate assessment of each individual’s risk of infection, and not on sexuality or gender. The UK led the way on this issue as it introduced changes to the safety check form in June. Eligibility for donating across the UK is now based on personal circumstances on health, travel and sexual behaviours.

Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said“Not only do donors in the UK now face a fairer and more efficient screening process, these new rules are likely to result in an increase in blood donations.

“Now more than ever, we desperately need more blood donations. For the first time in years, the IBTS recently had to import blood in bulk from the UK due to increased demand and reduced supply. If we are asking our citizens to donate, then we need to ensure the opportunity is available to everyone and the process of doing so is fair and objective.

“Due to the change in UK donation rules, there is now a disparity between the UK and Irish eligibility criteria.

“Back in 2016, the IBTS looked at what other countries around the world were doing and introduced changes to progress Ireland’s regulations to be in line with our international counterparts. That was five years ago, and the time has now come to look to our international neighbours once again to advance our policies.

“Ireland has been a pioneer in leading the way internationally for LGBT rights, but we’re falling behind when it comes to this issue. The fact of the matter is quite simple – being able to donate blood in Ireland should not be based on your gender or your sexuality.

“We are already facing severe blood shortages, and we can’t wait any longer for progress on this issue. I understand that the IBTS has established an independent ‘Advisory Committee for Social Behaviours Review’ to review the evidence base for donor selection, deferral and exclusion. The Committee is due to conclude its work this month and submit its report to the IBTS.

“We are calling on Minister Stephen Donnelly to work with the IBTS to ensure that the Committee’s work is completed by the end of this month, and ultimately to bring about changes to ensure our rules are fair, safe and non-discriminatory,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.  

Qualification for Carer’s Allowance must be examined for Budget 2022 – Carroll MacNeill 1st August 2021

The thresholds for earning in relation to qualification for the Carer’s Allowance must be examined, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “In a recent response to a Parliamentary Question I raised, Minister Humphreys detailed that 89,523 people were in receipt of the Carer’s Allowance.

“Although there has been a positive increase to the allowance of over 50% since 2015, it still doesn’t take into account families who are greatly impacted by a change in circumstance. A lot of people are excluded because of the means test as it currently is. They are locked out of the system even though they are doing huge amounts of care work on a daily basis.

“In particular, I’m thinking of multiple families in my constituency alone who have an unwell child. These families, often with other children, go from a two-income household, to a one income household, with greatly increased medical bills.

“Councillor Vicki Casserly and I have been working on improving the situation for families whose children spend a lot of time in hospital. We’ve met with families all over the country to hear their stories about long or frequent hospitals stays and the practical burden this places on their family lives, including the many hidden costs and challenges faced by parents of children in hospital.

“For example, according to the Childhood Illness, Financial Stress. The Hidden Costs of Hospital Care for Children Report€47 is spent by parents on food every day their child is in hospital. There are parking, accommodation (for a second parent) and childcare costs, as well as the opportunity cost of a parent changing their working life to care for a child with a serious or long term illness. This is a challenge faced by many families across Ireland today and a challenge that could be faced by any family at any time. There are few more vulnerable places for any child or parent than being in a children’s hospital, and parents have enough pressures to face without the additional financial worries caused. We are working with Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys to find better ways to meet these challenges.

“However, a huge part of addressing the challenge of costs for families with an additional care responsibility is changing the means test for the Carer’s Allowance. This would be a great assistance to many of these families, not just when in hospital.

“I know that 92% of current recipients of Carer’s Allowance have no additional income so would not necessarily benefit from changes to the means test. However that is still 8% of recipients who would be positively affected by a change to the means test. There are also many others who currently may not benefit from the Carer’s Allowance at all, working families who are just outside the means test but for whom the financial challenges, as well as the personal and care challenges, are huge.

“Family carers play a big, and often under acknowledged role in our country. We must do better by them and take into account the additional costs faced by families who care for an unwell family member. This absolutely must be examined in the context of Budget 2022,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

New Special Oireachtas Committee on Gender Equality to be established – Carroll MacNeill 8th July 2021

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has welcomed the decision by the Oireachtas Business Committee to accept her proposal to establish a new, dedicated and fully resourced Special Oireachtas Committee to drive the implementation of recommendations from the Citizen’s Assembly on Gender Equality.

Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Vice-Chair and Spokesperson for Equality, Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “Having written to the Ceann Comhairle earlier this week to ask that this be considered and progressed, I’m delighted to have received such resounding support from him and the Business Committee to progress this important work.

“It’s absolutely crucial to keep the momentum going to deliver the change that women all over Ireland need to see in their day to day lives.

“The creation of the Committee and its structure should be a team effort, including myself and all my parliamentary colleagues who have expressed support for this, the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus and the National Women’s Council, all of whom have done trojan work in this area to date.

“The timing of today’s announcement represents significant progress since the publication of Dr Catherine Day’s report last month, and now allows us time over the next number of weeks to prepare and get ready to begin serious work on the Committee during the autumn Oireachtas session.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on progressing this Committee with the urgency it requires and plan on making myself very much available for some additional Committee work come September, if the opportunity to be selected was to arise”, concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Special Oireachtas Committee needs to be established to implement Gender Equality recommendations – Carroll MacNeill 6th July 2021

A Special Oireachtas Committee needs to be established before the year is out to oversee the implementation of recommendations on Gender Equality made by the Citizen’s Assembly, according to Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said, “The Gender Equality Citizen’s Assembly made 45 recommendations across eight key areas, including childcare and leadership & politics. Three of those recommendations are in relation to our Constitution.

“These three recommendations are:

  1. Insert a new clause into Article 40 to refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination.
  2. Delete and replace the text of Article 41.2 (woman in the home) with language that is not gender specific and obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community.
  3. Amend Article 41 so that it would protect private and family life, with the protection afforded to the family not limited to the marital family

“I have yet to meet a woman in my personal and professional life who hasn’t experienced gender-based inequality, either directly or indirectly”, continued Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

“The members of the Citizen’s Assembly worked extremely hard for over a year to deliver these recommendations. It is our duty as public representatives and members of the Oireachtas to assist in implementing them in a speedy and efficient manner.

“I wrote to the Ceann Comhairle this morning to request that a full Oireachtas debate take place on the matter.

“Further to that, I have asked that a Special Oireachtas Committee to oversee the implementation of these recommendations be established. This Committee could be tasked with scoping the draft text for the referendum on the 3 Constitutional recommendations so that a referendum could proceed as soon as 2022.

“I have engaged with the National Women’s Council of Ireland and we are working together to ensure the speedy implementation of these recommendations for the improvement of equality across the country”, concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Ombudsman report highlights the injustices faced by Travellers across Irish society – Carroll MacNeill 25th May 2021

Members of the Traveller community have been subjected to horrific living conditions and vast inequities in accessing basic human rights across Irish society, a Fine Gael TD has said.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) published “No End in Site; An investigation into the living conditions of children living on a local authority site” yesterday Monday May 24th.

Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said: “I welcome the completion and publication of the OCO’s report; a necessary piece of work that paints a stark picture of what life is like for many Traveller families and children in Ireland today.

“While the report focuses on one local authority site in particular, it also serves to highlight how Travellers have been let down across our society, with children amongst those who bear the heaviest burden and face the greatest challenges.

“Reading through the OCO’s findings, it’s almost incomprehensible to recognise the scale of the injustice that exists not only in our country, but very often within our own local communities.

“Traveller children face a much higher risk of skin conditions and respiratory problems than their peers. Hearing young kids recount first-hand being asked why they’re ‘dirty’, because they don’t have proper access to toilet and shower facilities is unacceptable.

“The OCO could not have been clearer that the local authority under investigation failed to consider the best interests of the children living in the site in question. These children have been left to live in overcrowded, unsafe, damp, filthy conditions for years.

“While this makes for stark reading for some people, it doesn’t come as a surprise to many members of the Traveller community.

“Urgent action needs to be taken to ensure that all Travellers across the country, and not only in the local authority site in question, have access to a quality of living that ensures their basic human rights – at the very minimum.

“It’s important to remember that Travellers don’t only face challenges when it comes to accommodation. Problems exist for many members of the community across the board.

“From my ongoing engagement and work with Pavee Point, I know that along with accommodation, better access to education is one of the most important issues for the Traveller community.

“We have seen some recent positives with better access to higher education for members of the Traveller community through the delivery of a greatly expanded apprenticeship programme by my colleague Minister Simon Harris, which I know Traveller representative groups have sought for many years.

“However, work remains to be done. We need to see the urgent completion of the National Traveller Education Strategy, which I have raised previously with Minister Norma Foley and which has been in hopelessly slow gestation for many years in the Department of Education. I would urge this Minister to really expedite and prioritise the development and delivery of the Strategy,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Permanent maternity leave solutions needed from Council to Cabinet – Carroll MacNeill 29th April 2021

Permanent arrangements for the provision of maternity leave for women in politics, from Councillors to Cabinet members, are needed within the next six months, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Cabinet needs to expedite a suite of constitutional and legislative solutions to enable gender equality in our democratic institutions, according to Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “It’s a fantastic day today with the news that Minister McEntee has had a baby boy, and I want to wish huge congratulations to Helen and Paul. It is powerful proof that young women watching can have high office and still be supported in having a baby.

“The arrangements for Minister McEntee’s leave were important, but as she said, they were a temporary sticking plaster rather than a full resolution of the matter.

“I hope today can be a springboard moment and that the Government will now commit to a plan to introducing necessary permanent arrangements to support women in politics from ‘Councillor to Cabinet’, and to put some real ambition around it. It would be ideal to see this completed before Minister McEntee returns from her maternity leave, as we need to see momentum on this issue now.

“The necessary elements are coming together – I published a Bill on Remote Parliamentary Voting last December[i] to enable the Houses of the Oireachtas make rules to enable appropriate maternity and paternity leave for TDs and Senators.

“That Bill was subsequently adopted by the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus and it was recently advanced by the Caucus in a meeting with the Taoiseach.”

Deputy Carroll MacNeill also acknowledged the work already being done in this area“Minister Peter Burke is leading a cross-party group on maternity leave for Councillors which is badly needed. In my own Council in Dún Laoghaire, the first to achieve 50:50 gender representation, both Councillors Lorraine Hall and Eva Dowling have had babies during this term with each having to come up with ad hoc arrangements, including pairing with other Councillors to manage the needs of their role and the needs of their baby.

“Just last weekend, the Citizen’s Assembly on Gender Equality made 45 recommendations[ii] which included the introduction of maternity leave for elected representatives.

“In the case of Minister McEntee we were able to expedite a sticking plaster solution; we now need the same commitment to bringing together the suite of measures needed to be referendum ready when that becomes possible.

“You can’t be it if you can’t see it; we know we have a problem with the under representation of women in politics. Maternity provision in democratic institutions alone is not the solution, but anyone with a womb can see it’s a big glaring part of it.” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

 

[i] https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/oireachtas-must-modernise-to-allow-remote-voting-1.4332393

https://www.finegael.ie/remote-voting-bill-removes-barrier-to-maternity-leave-for-politicians-carroll-macneill/

[ii] https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/news-publications/press-releases/recommendations-of-the-citizens-assembly-on-gender-equality.html

Time for Sinn Féin to face up to its past as we seek to unite the people of this island – Carroll MacNeill 25th April 2021

It is time for Sinn Féin to face up to its past as we seek to unite the people of this island, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said.

“With her recent remarks in relation to the 1979 tragedy at Mullaghmore, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, as leader of Sinn Féin, is clearly not yet at a stage where she can offer apologies or admit that the killing of Lord Mountbatten, Lady Brabourne, his grandson Nicholas and his friend Paul Maxwell was wrong.

“In keeping with the ‘party line’ overseen from Belfast, she attributes the blame for this and other horrific atrocities to events that occurred within a ‘war’. But there wasn’t a war. IRA, and other paramilitary, violence was a terrorist campaign which had no legitimacy as the overwhelming majority of people in both parts of the island did not support it.

“In marked contrast to the IRA campaign of violence, the essential work of the civil rights movement had, by the early 1970s, largely been achieved by peaceful leaders and non-violent means. The continuing aim of the IRA campaign was to bomb Britain out of Ireland and that terrorism was responsible for more deaths than any other in the decades that followed.

“23 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, acknowledging ‘wrong’ and apologising, remains too sensitive and difficult for the now Leader of Sinn Féin. Instead Deputy McDonald has spent the week walking back what was initially perceived as an apology or admission of wrongdoing.

“This very fact must remind us that our focus has to be on achieving the ambition of Article 3 of the Constitution – to unite the people of this island.

“Deputy McDonald acknowledges that her job is to ‘lead from the front’. Well, now is her time to do that and to focus the considerable energy and resources of her party on reconciliation and relationships, rather than just a relentless focus on one aspect of the Agreement, the possibility of a border poll.

“For example, Sinn Féin and other parties on the Power-Sharing Executive could initiate a serious programme for integrated education in Northern Ireland which would show a deep commitment to enabling a reconciled people with a genuinely shared future. Yet today, only 24,132 of Northern Ireland’s children are in integrated schools.  We could have had a generation of young people come through integrated schools since the Good Friday Agreement but instead it represents only 7% of school places and is oversubscribed every year.

 

“Sinn Féin could take steps to recognise and respect the rights of both traditions. Unionist parties did not oppose the planting of a tree in Stormont to mark the 125th anniversary of the GAA (Ref 2). The erection of a granite stone map of Northern Ireland in the grounds of Stormont to acknowledge the centenary of the founding of Northern Ireland presented a comparatively easy way to reach out to unionists, and was a step that was given support by the Alliance Party and the SDLP. However, Sinn Féin vetoed it.

“Sinn Féin could also approach with parity the deaths of lawyers Edgar Graham and Pat Finucane. The Irish state has fully supported the call to investigate fully the terrible murder of Pat Finucane, including most recently in December 2020 where the Government, both Houses of the Oireachtas and the Good Friday Agreement Implementation Committee, of which I am a member, called for an inquiry as an imperative for the rule of law.

However, Sinn Féin has never condemned the sectarian murder of lawyer and academic Edgar Graham in 1983, who was regarded as a future leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (Ref 1).

“At an absolute minimum, Sinn Féin could remove the language on the cover of their website that depicts those of different views or their ‘opponents’ as ‘continuing their onslaught’ against a United Ireland (Ref 3). The language of conflict in this contemporary context is pretty obviously unhelpful.

“The lessons of the last few weeks, including the threat to the life of a PSNI officer this week, reminds us sadly that 23 years after the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland is a deeply divided society.

“Everyone is entitled to their legitimate aspiration, and mine is first and foremost of a united people before anything else – within Ireland, within Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland, so that in whatever polity may emerge in time, it is grounded in a society more reconciled, as per the central aspiration of the Good Friday Agreement.

“When will it be time for Sinn Féin to face up to its past, and focus on reconciliation and relationships, as we seek to unite the people of this island?”, concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

 

References

  1. As the Taoiseach observed in the Dáil – https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2020-12-09/speech/91/ – on 9th December, the anniversary of his death, “His family has received very little in terms of a report from the historical enquiries team, HET, investigations into his murder. It was callous, it was cruel and it was cowardly. He seems to have been singled out for his views and opinions as opposed to anything else. That is what the IRA said at the time – let this be a lesson to anybody who defends the policies of the British Government. It is a murder that deserves condemnation all around and it should be roundly condemned. Work should continue with the family by the authorities in Northern Ireland to give satisfactory replies.”. Sinn Féin has the opportunity as a party in government in Northern Ireland to progress this with parity to the murder of Pat Finucane

 

  1. 2009 (Sportsfile – GAA 125th Anniversary marked by Tree Planting at Stormont – RP0080695) including future UUP election candidate Trevor Ringland.

 

  1. ”At a time when the conversation about Irish reunification is widespread across Ireland and our political opponents continue their onslaught against a new, United Ireland, it’s important to keep up to date with breaking Republican news from Ireland’s most rooted and radical political magazine.” An Phoblacht Magazine

 

Citizens’ Assembly recommendations point way to fairer Ireland – Carroll MacNeill 24th April 2021

The recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality point the way to a fairer, more inclusive Ireland, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “Today’s recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality are an unmissable opportunity to build on the progressive changes we have seen in Ireland in recent years.

“The recommendations of the assembly, led by Catherine Day, range from constitutional amendments to political changes to improvements in the workplace and increased support for families and households.

“The recommendation to amend Article 41.2 of the Constitution – woman in the home – is long overdue and its replacement with non-gender specific language would value the importance of caring duties in the home.

“The assembly’s focus on caring is particularly welcome and its recommendations on reforming Carers’ Allowance, improving respite provision, increasing the Carers’ Support Grant and providing access to training and other supports would recognise how crucial the work of carers in our country is.

“Many of the recommendations, such as those on pension reform – especially relevant to women who left the workplace due to caring responsibilities – on gender quotas in politics and elsewhere, on increased support for childcare, including greater paid leave for parents, are areas in which Fine Gael has led the way in recent years.

“I look forward to the Government’s speedy consideration of the assembly’s recommendations and to taking part in the debates and the work at the Oireachtas to make the recommendations a reality for everyone in our country,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Dún Laoghaire goes purple to highlight the prevalence of domestic violence across Ireland 22nd April 2021

On Friday April 23rd wear a little purple to show solidarity with victims of domestic violence and with those offering support, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Civic offices around the country will light up purple on Friday to highlight the prevalence of domestic violence across Ireland, including the Harbour plaza boat and the County Hall in Dún Laoghaire, Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “Seeing so much support really lifts the spirits of those working in domestic violence services. We all need to support each other in order to break the silence on this insidious issue that is behind too many doors in homes across Ireland.

“When it comes to the spectrum of issues of domestic sexual and gender violence, we are looking at a behaviour of psychological manipulation of a person as much as physical. It can be subtle but the pattern can be very damaging.

“It is a lack of boundaries, a disregard for personhood that forms the seed for the sense that one is entitled to exert themselves on any other person.

“The key link between these acts is that sense of exertion on another. Whether we’re talking about sexual violence or domestic abuse, coercive control, parental alienation; they are all different sides of this same phenomenon – the diminishing of personhood, and the sense of entitlement to control or hurt someone.

“To break this pattern of behaviour, we need to understand these issues, from a societal perspective, a Government policy perspective and a judicial perspective.

“There are fantastic organisations doing some very good work in these areas. This week, I had good ongoing discussions with the new CEO of Safe Ireland, Mary McDermott, CEO of Women’s Aid Sarah Benson, with CEO of Men’s Aid Kathrina Bentley, and with representatives from Saoirse Domestic Violence Services in Tallaght and representatives from Alienated Children First.

“I look forward to continuing my work with them, and I also welcome the work of the many representative groups contributing to the Oireachtas Justice Committee, of which I am a member.

“Minister McEntee is actively working on the Family Law reform programme, which is urgently needed to build a new Family Law Court where we have judges, lawyers and other professionals, especially Section 47 assessors, that are specifically trained in these areas – including contemporary understandings of the manipulative patterns of behaviour that affect children and families and which can be perpetuated throughout the family law process.

“We are shortly expecting a significant external audit of how responsibility for Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence is segmented across different government agencies, which is being conducted by Mary Higgins and Ellen O’Malley Dunlop. It is important that government reacts in a comprehensive and timely way to this audit which has been developed taking into account the views of service providers and NGOs, including people working on the frontline in domestic violence services.”

 

Notes for Editors:

  • Go Purple is a national campaign to highlight the prevalence of domestic violence across Ireland. As Ireland went into lockdown domestic violence services dealt with a surge in demand and fear further increase as the country opens up over the coming months.
  • Go Purple takes place on Friday 23rd April – asking people to wear purple, dye your hair purple, bake purple cakes and show your support for anyone experiencing an abusive relationship and to donate to their local domestic violence service.
  • The public are encouraged to take a photo on their purple picture and tag domestic violence services across social media to show their support.
  • Civic offices across Ireland will also light up purple on Friday evening. (Dun Laoghaire too!)
Sentencing for crimes motivated by hate set to double 16th April 2021

A person who is proven to have committed a crime aggravated by hatred will now face up to double the sentence than for ordinary forms of crime, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dún Laoghaire Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said: “For the first time in the history of our State, it will now become a new criminal offence to commit a crime based on prejudice against a person’s gender, including their gender expression or identity, disability or their ethnic or national origin.

“The Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill 2021 is a landmark bill, with the new form of criminal offences being the first of their kind in Ireland, and I want to thank Minister McEntee for her work on this to date.

“When we look at this Bill, we are not talking about the criminalisation of ‘giving offence’. In fact, the criteria of the Bill are designed in such a way that ‘giving offence’ will not be criminalised.

“This is also not about limiting our constitutional right to freedom of speech or expression.

“It is, however, about penalising hate crimes and the incitement of hatred. It’s about addressing hate in Irish society where it has no place. Hate that we have seen causes divisions, anxiety and hurt over and over.

“This Bill is a nuanced piece of legislation in that it will ensure a person has acted with intent, or recklessness, to incite hatred, before a conviction is made.

“The concept of a person’s motivation really comes into play here, as crimes which are found to have been aggravated by hate will carry additional penalties. For example, harassment motivated by hatred based on a person’s sexuality will now be a more serious offence than ordinary harassment, and it will be charged as a new offence from the outset,” added Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

The Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill 2021 updates the protected characteristics under Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, to include gender expression or identity, disability and Traveller ethnicity.

“I am delighted to see that Traveller ethnicity will be recognised on the same basis as other ethnic origins.

“From my work with Pavee Point, I know that members of the Traveller community can be often subjected to incidents of hate speech and prejudice, and it’s long overdue that we tackle this issue through our legislative powers,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

Sinn Féin vote against vaccine certificates a blow to the hospitality and tourism sector – Carroll MacNeill 26th March 2021

Sinn Féin constantly calls for support for the hospitality sector yet voted against an EU proposal to expedite plans to safely reopen allowing businesses to claw back lost revenue, a Fine Gael TD has said.

 

Sinn Féin MEPs voted against accelerating the approval of the Digital Green Certificate in the European Parliament on Wednesday.

 

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said: “It’s very disappointing to see that Sinn Féin MEPs voted against this proposal, which would allow the tourism and hospitality sectors to reopen sooner than might otherwise be the case.

 

“Sinn Féin has been calling for supports and the reopening of the hospitality sector all along. Back in September, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou MacDonald called for bars and pubs to remain open.

 

“Deputy Imelda Munster this week recognized that the “sector is crying out for support”, while Deputy Johnny Mythen acknowledged that restaurants in his area are in real trouble.

 

“Deputy Darren O’Rourke was looking for plans for the recovery of the aviation sector earlier this week, and Deputy Mythen has also previously raised increasing international travel.

 

“Sinn Féin needs to pick a side and stick to it. We know that Sinn Féin plays two sides of every coin, but the livelihoods of people across the country are at risk here.

 

“What businesses need is to reopen. As safely as possible, and as soon as possible. We need to plan now for reopening over the next few months, and the EU’s Digital Green Certificate is one component of a comprehensive plan to ensure the tourism, hospitality, retail and aviation sector get back on their feet.

 

“I was delighted to see that the vote was ultimately successful, with MEPs, including Fine Gael representatives, voting to accelerate the approval of the certificates. The decision to accelerate this process was made in recognition of the impact this will have on reopening society including hotels, restaurants, bars and other businesses that have been shut for the best part of a year.

 

“This week’s successful vote guarantees a timeframe that allows for the cert to come into force by June, just in time for the summer tourism season.

 

“The certificate is not a passport, and it’s not a magic bullet in protecting against Covid-19. But what it can allow us to do is to look to allow access to hospitality at an earlier stage.

 

“Any reopening would drive some revenue for hospitality and provide a bonus for them to be able to get out sooner than might otherwise be the case,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

We must do better for female victims of violence and sexual assault – Carroll MacNeill 21st March 2021

We must do better in our treatment of female victims of violence and sexual assault, according to Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, who also called for a renewed effort to make our streets and public spaces safer for women and vulnerable people.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “Improving the way we treat female victims of violence and sexual assault will both humanise the justice process for them, and also remove barriers to other victims coming forward and reporting incidents.

“I look forward to working on this important matter this week (Tuesday) when the Oireachtas Justice Committee meets with the Rape Crisis Network, One in Four, Men’s Aid, The Bar of Ireland, and officials from the Department of Justice.

“Speaking about their experiences, many victims have rightly hailed the sensitivity and compassion of the Gardaí dealing with their cases, however this is not the case across the criminal justice system.  Sadly it is failing these women in the way it treats victims of violence and sexual assault. In the court system, victims of rape and sexual assault are treated as witnesses  and as such they do not have representation except when there is a request to cross examine the victim on their past sexual history and when records are being requested. The recent O’Malley report on how victims of rape and sexual assault should be treated in the court process made many excellent recommendations however it stopped short of recommending what advocates for victims of rape and sexual assault have been calling for for far too long, and that is for separate representation for victims in these cases. It has been described by too many as far too difficult a process.

“I applaud the bravery of solicitor Sarah Grace, who spoke on RTÉ radio recently about her experiences of the justice system. She raised very valid questions about the use of counselling notes in rape and sexual assault court cases. This is extremely problematic. Any woman who has been the victim of sexual assault or rape needs the full benefit of such counselling, without the fear that the counselling notes could be used against her in court.

“We now have the opportunity to make positive changes for the future treatment of female victims of violence and sexual assault. I look forward to exploring some of the suggestions that will be made in the upcoming report on the Department of Justice audit of how responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is segmented across government agencies and the NGO service providers. It will also recommend proposals on what infrastructure is needed to ensure that the issues are dealt with in the most effective manner possible.”

Deputy Carroll MacNeill continued: “While the treatment of victims is so important, we must also continue to focus on the prevention of these crimes to ensure we have fewer such victims. We need a renewed effort to make our streets and public spaces safer for women. We may never completely eradicate violence from our society, but education is a major key to changing societal attitudes towards girls and women who have been disproportionately affected, for generations.

“This education must be age appropriate and start at pre-school and continue right through to third level. Understanding of issues like equality, personhood, boundaries, consent and respect are crucial to effecting attitudinal change.

“As we have seen from the avalanche of stories in recent weeks, too many women do not feel safe on our streets and public transport, both during the day and especially after dark. Only when you’ve been in the situation of a routine walk home turning into a moment of terror, can you truly understand what it feels like. That’s why it has been so important for women to speak out in the way they have done.

“Legislators must listen; and we must also act. I’ve no doubt that what we hear at the Justice Committee Tuesday will be shocking, but also nothing new. It has been said that the scenes of recent weeks are a reminder of the 1979 ‘Reclaim the Night’ marches. It is unacceptable that we have not made more progress forty years on. We cannot continue to simply be outraged; what is the point in that?

“It is time we made tangible changes to improve the experience of victims of violence and sexual assault, but also crucially, to ensure we see less of these crimes in our communities in the first instance. Let us make sure that the recommendations that will come from the audit will be taken seriously and driven by Government to ensure that the proper funding is made available to deliver what we know works; prevention programmes, proper provision of services and continued developments in our criminal justice system for protection and prosecution.”

Sexual education must be embedded in our school system 12th March 2021

A new comprehensive programme of relationship and sexual education must be embedded in our school system for children from early age if we are to break the endemic of sexual and gender-based violence in Ireland, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dún Laoghaire Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill was speaking as the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality is meeting tomorrow (Saturday) to discuss the issue of gender based violence and will work to agree to a ballot paper on care.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill has said, “In recent days, there has been a renewed discussion about gender based violence following the tragic suspected murder of Sarah Everard, who disappeared last week as she walked home from a friend’s house in London.

“Many women have recounted their own experiences online of feeling intimated as they walked alone or have encountered violence or abuse because of their sex.

“Women have told how they instinctively check in with a female friend or relative to make sure they are home safe. Why should one gender live in fear of another? The answer is it is not acceptable, and the answer lies in a new approach to relationship and sexual education that educates out children.

“The convening of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender violence today is timely given the current public discussion, nevertheless this issue has proved absolutely timeless as generation after generation of women suffer the same fear and same attacks over and over again. Unless we take radically different steps to educate our children today about respect and boundaries and personhood, we have no hope of preventing this cycle happening again for our children today.

“Sexual violence, gender violence and domestic abuse are the exertion of one person on another. I have said before that the only way to break that exertion is with a comprehensive and very new and very different approach to relationship and sexual education.

“So that when I or anyone else drops their child to school, that we can look around at the children and hope that the challenges that faced us and face us still, have some chance of being interrupted, of being broken. Of being different for them.

“1 in 3 to one in 4 women are directly victimised by sexual violence and/ or domestic violence in Europe and the figure mirrors the prevalence in Ireland.

“We need to help ensure that victims know that they will be protected and supported every step of the way in reporting these crimes and that their perpetrators will be held accountable and brought to justice.

“The response we need to end this endemic of sexual and gender violence is the education of our five years olds and beyond. Now. All of the other measures can only be sticking plasters, they will never fix the injury,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

Two capable female Ministers to serve in Justice 11th March 2021

Two capable and hardworking female Ministers will serve the Justice Department during Minister Helen McEntee’s maternity leave, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said.

“I am delighted the Government has made arrangements to enable Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to take maternity leave and provide full Ministerial cover to the Department of Justice,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

“The assignment of the duties of the Department of Justice to two such capable women, already sitting at Cabinet, Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development, Heather Humphreys, and Minister for State at the Department of Transport and Climate Action, Hildegarde Naughton, shows the Department will be well covered and served in Helen’s absence.

“Everyone wishes Helen McEntee so well. She is in a leadership position in Cabinet and she is in a leadership position in managing this issue for the first time in the history of the State as a woman in Cabinet.

“Of course, she is not the first person in Cabinet to have had a baby while serving in office and I hope we will get to the day when this doesn’t need to be as big a deal the next time.

“It is perfectly obvious we need to fix this for the future. There is a suite of constitutional and legislative reforms needed to change this for women TDs, ministers and councillors for the future.

“One of those is the Bill I published to enable remote voting. The Oireachtas Women’s caucus is due to meet the Taoiseach about the reforms needed shortly and work needs to continue quickly on this,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

Consent campaign signals zero tolerance for sexual violence in third level institutions – Carroll MacNeill 2nd March 2021

The ‘Start Here’ campaign aims to equip students and staff with practical information to help tackle the endemic sexual harassment and violence in our Higher Education institutions, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said Minister Simon Harris’ campaign will provide students and staff with practical information on how to respond to disclosures of sexual violence.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “Young people in our third-level institutions have been, and continue to be, assaulted, raped and subjected to sexual violence. However, we still see worryingly low disclosure and reporting rates amongst students.

“We know that students can be particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and coercive control, and the impact of these crimes can be devastating.

“From speaking with the mother of Emily Drouet, the Scottish student who took her own life having been subjected to a campaign of abuse from her boyfriend, I’ve heard just how catastrophic this impact can be.

“Over the past number of years, we’ve broken down barriers in discussing sexual consent and violence. We now need to go beyond this to prevent abuse from happening in the first place. In situations where crimes do occur, we need to provide people with information and tools so that they know how to respond.

“The ‘Start Here’ campaign will do just that. It’s a pragmatic campaign, focused on informing students and staff on how to respond if they learn of harassment or sexual violence,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

Minister Harris has requested action plans from each third level college and university on how it intends to deal with this. The plans are due to be published shortly.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “Over the course of their time in college, some young people will be told by their friends of incidents of sexual harassment, assault and rape. This can be upsetting and overwhelming for a young person to hear, and from speaking with students I know that many feel ill-equipped to appropriately deal with such disclosures.

“This campaign will offer practical information on what to say, the supports available and the next best steps.

“I’m delighted to see that the campaign is being is being run by NUI Galway Active Consent, the Union of Students in Ireland and the Galway Rape Crisis Centre. These organisations have been fundamental in bringing the issue of sexual consent to national attention and continue to work tirelessly to tackle sexual violence at third level.

“These crimes are not problems unique to colleges or universities. We need root and branch reform and we need a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. While this campaign is a step in the right direction, a complete reform must begin with sexual education in our schools,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

US advert highlights Sinn Féin’s dodgy political fundraising and divisive messaging – Carroll MacNeill 10th March 2021

A US advert campaign, run by Friends of Sinn Féin, raises questions for Sinn Féin about their fundraising and their commitment to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said that the advert, which is being rolled out today across US newspapers including the New York Times and Washington Post, raises the question of Sinn Féin’s political fundraising yet again.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “This advert calls into account Sinn Féin’s commitment to the ideals of the Good Friday Agreement, but it also highlights their large US donor base and political financing.

“The amount of money being spent on these ads is huge; a half-page ad in the New York Times costs upwards of $90,000[1]. How is this being financed? Is it from the US donations Sinn Féin receive every year?

“According to filings lodged with the US Government, Friends of Sinn Féin raised $295,000 in the six-month period to April 2020. That’s a huge amount of money in the context of Irish political financing, and we know that this comes largely from lavish fundraising events thrown in the US.

“The funds raised are being used to plough money into expensive advertising in US media outlets in an effort to influence Irish politics, including the most sensitive aspects of Irish politics – that of peace and stability on this island.

“Are these donations still being solicited from US donors? Does SIPO have a view on Sinn Féin’s political financing, adverts outside of the State and their influence on Irish affairs?

“This ad clearly calls for a referendum on a United Ireland, but where are Sinn Féin’s ads promoting the building of reconciliation and respect?

“The ad also calls for the Irish Government to plan for and promote Irish unity, and for the British Government to set a date for a referendum. This is irresponsible, divisive and ignores the reality of what this would mean for thousands of people living in the North.

“The message of a referendum on a united Ireland underpinning the ad is distracting from the aspect of the Good Friday Agreement we need to be focusing on now.

“While the Good Friday Agreement recognises the aspiration of a United Ireland, the Agreement also calls on us to dedicate ourselves to the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust.

“This has yet to be achieved, and without this a United Ireland is unlikely to be achieved.

“The ad states that ‘Their (Unionists) rights, and the rights of all, are guaranteed in a United Ireland.’ In what way has Sinn Féin put in the groundwork to build trust that these rights will be guaranteed?

“The ad also states, ‘It is now time to have an inclusive, informed and respectful discussion.’ Is Sinn Féin having these discussions; if so with who?

“This unrelenting demand for a border poll is irresponsible, divisive and ignores the reality of what this would mean for thousands of people living in the North. Before pushing ahead with any border poll, a detailed understanding of exactly what is involved is needed.

“As the party calling for a United Ireland, Sinn Féin should be leading the way in ensuring that the focus now is on finishing the unfinished business of the Good Friday Agreement by achieving reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust across communities and identities. But where is the evidence of this?” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

[1] https://nytmediakit.com/uploads/rates/Business2019.pdf

Higher Education funding recognises impact Covid-19 has on Traveller students 1st March 2021

Students from the Traveller community have had their learning disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, a Fine Gael TD has said.

 

Today’s announcement from Minister Simon Harris of the roll-out of €300,000 in funding for Travellers in Higher Education will support students to remain in third-level during the pandemic, Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said.

The Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality said, “This funding will support students from the Traveller community; students who may be already studying in College, or younger students who are now looking to progress their education past secondary school.

 

“Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on these students. Some students don’t have access to suitable places to study, so they’ve had to work on kitchen tables, in shared bedrooms or next to younger siblings for the past year.

 

“Access to suitable technology is also a big problem for some members of the Traveller community. Without wifi laptops or other IT supports, college students face disruptions to their online learning, while leaving cert students are having difficulties in completing their CAO applications. 

 

“We’re almost a year into the pandemic now, and more needs to be done for these students to ensure they receive the same level of education and opportunities as every other student.

 

“I raised the issue of IT supports with Minister Harris recently and asked him to ensure that options are made available to those in the Traveller community who wish to access third level education but may not have the resources to begin the process.

“I welcome today’s announcement from the Minister, which recognises that Covid-19 has had a prolonged negative impact on the education of many in the Traveller community.

“This announcement is the first step in mitigating these impacts and I look forward to continuing working with Pavee Point and the Minister to ensure that funding is made available to those who need it most,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

Government to end Direct Provision by 2024, but work remains to improve life for residents – Carroll MacNeill 26th February 2021

The Government commitment to close all Direct Provision centres by 2024 marks significant progress in creating a more humane and progressive asylum system, but more work remains to be done, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality Jennifer Carroll MacNeill welcomed today’s announcement that a new International Protection Support Service will replace the current Direct Provision system in Ireland.

Speaking about the publication of the Government’s White Paper on Ending Direct Provision, Deputy Carroll MacNeill said “I’ve spoken with many residents of Direct Provision centres over the past year and I hope that today’s development will be welcomed by those who have lived the reality of our current system.

“From meeting with organisations such as Abolish Direct Provision and the Irish Refugee Council, I know that activists and groups have campaigned tirelessly for years to bring about a change in the asylum process.

“The White Paper sets out how this change will happen over the next few years, as it details the steps Government will take to end Direct Provision and replace it with a new system.

“I’m pleased to see that this system will afford people basic privileges such as the entitlement to open a bank account and apply for an Irish drivers’ licence, but these rights are not being offered to asylum seekers at the moment.

“I have previously written to Ministers Ryan, McEntee and O’Gorman to highlight the issue of drivers’ licences and I have asked that they work to navigate any issues that are in the way of allowing asylum seekers to access licences. This would afford people access to greater freedom, in particular residents of centres in isolated areas.

“An urgent review to ensure that school transport needs are met for parents of young children is also needed. I recently spoke with one mother who is walking her young children to school on narrow country roads, as she doesn’t have access to suitable transport.

“We are on the path to a fairer and more compassionate system, but work remains to be done.

“We still need to focus on resolving various issues to help people with obvious practicalities in their lives that affect everyone, whether they or not they are in the Direct Provision system,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

Hidden costs and challenges faced by parents of children in hospital must be addressed 16th February 2021

Fine Gael Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill and Fine Gael Councillor Vicki Casserly met with Minister Heather Humphreys today to discuss the costs and challenges for parents of children in hospital.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill, who represents Dún Laoghaire, said: “I’m very grateful to Minister Humphreys and her team for meeting with me and Cllr Vicki Casserly this afternoon to discuss the costs of having a child in hospital faced by Irish families.

“Parents with children in hospital face a range of practical challenges, in addition to the medical issues faced by their children. Increased expenses, multi-discipline clinical coordination and time away from work and family are frequently the biggest issues.

“For example, according to the Childhood Illness, Financial Stress. The Hidden Costs of Hospital Care for Children Report€47 is spent by parents on food every day their child is in hospital.

“There are also the costs of parking, additional childcare, reduced income from reducing working and for many additional accommodation costs. Some of this can be alleviated by improved hospital coordination.

“Cllr Casserly and I want to try to help reduce some of these practical problems through our engagement with a range of hospital and government stakeholders, and we began that with our conversation with Minister Humphreys today.”

Speaking following this afternoon’s meeting, Cllr Vicki Casserly said: “I know and understand the challenges that come with having a sick child in hospital. I am committed to ensuring we do our best to alleviate some of the unnecessary stresses during these challenging times.”

Deputy Carroll MacNeill and Cllr Casserly are looking to engage directly with families affected by this issue.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded: “We hope to hear from other parents affected to help inform our work on this issue. We will be holding an online seminar to facilitate this discussion, and if you are a parent that is affected by this issue, please do get in touch with us.”

Pearse Doherty needs to stop throwing shapes and respect the independent Central Bank 11th February 2021

Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has called on Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty to respect the independence of the Central Bank after comments he made in the Dáil earlier regarding the insurance industry.

 

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “I and other elected representatives will be putting pressure on the insurance industry to honour any valid policies for struggling businesses.

 

“That’s what businesses want – valid policies honoured. And quickly. Not a three-year investigation by the Central Bank that will do nothing to keep businesses going in 2021.

 

“Pearse Doherty knows that the Central Bank is independent. He knows that a responsible government would never and could never direct the Central Bank on any matter.

 

“So it is wrong and disingenuous to suggest to the public otherwise. Or perhaps that is how Sinn Fein would behave in government?”

Thank you to the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus for strong support for Remote Parliamentary Voting PMB – Carroll MacNeill 9th February 2021

The Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus has debated and supported Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill’s Remote Parliamentary Voting Private Members’ Bill.

During today’s meeting, the cross-party forum discussed the Bill which seeks to amend the Constitution to allow for remote voting in specific situations, including the provision of maternity leave.

Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said: “I want to thank the Women’s Caucus for their support of my Bill at today’s AGM.

“This Bill seeks to remove a constitutional barrier to maternity leave for politicians, and I am looking forward to advancing the Bill with the Caucus at the next opportunity.

“I believe all workers who are parents with new babies should be afforded parental leave, and this privilege should be extended to members of the Oireachtas.

“This Bill is one of the first steps towards flexible maternity or paternity provision for TDs and Senators. And while it is not my intention to prescribe the way in which leave for members should be provided, maternity provision requires the possibility of remote voting at a minimum.

“Having the support of the Women’s Caucus signals the importance of maternity leave not only for current TDs and Senators, but also for women who may consider running for office in the future.

“The Bill is also important for those members who may become immuno-compromised through illness. These members may lose their ability to participate in parliamentary votes through no wish of their own, but only through our failure to make inclusive provision for them.  It also performs a role in future proofing the Oireachtas against any future emergencies, such as the Covid pandemic we have experienced this past year.”

ENDS

The new proposed Article 15.11.4 states:

“Each House may make its own rules and standing orders providing for special and limited circumstances by which members not present in that House may vote when any matter, or any class of matter as so provided for, is to be determined by a vote of that House

Link to bill here.

Decision on EWSS needed to give certainty to Irish businesses – Carroll MacNeill 4th February 2021

A timely decision about the future of the EWSS must be made to ensure the survival of Irish businesses, a Fine Gael TD has said.

 

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, the Dún Laoghaire TD, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, said: “The EWSS is due to end in March but many businesses will need continued support after that period.

 

“I am calling on the Minister for Finance to make a decision about the future of the EWSS and communicate this to businesses immediately.

 

“I thank him for his work on this, for putting the scheme in place and for its efficiencies to date. It is fair to say that without it we would have more than 300,000 employees who would either be on substantially lower incomes or who may not be in work at all.

 

“This transfer from the State to families directly is able to keep people paying existing mortgages and allow them to continue with their lifestyle and employment.

 

“One of the aspects of the scheme that has been so helpful to businesses, especially small businesses and employees in them, is the certainty that the EWSS model has given them. They can continue to get through the difficulties of lockdowns and the difficulties they face in other parts of their lives knowing there is a degree of income security in their house for those who are eligible to avail of it.

 

“It is also important to note that different types of certainty are needed for different businesses.

 

“Some businesses will need to plan to come off the EWSS. They will require advanced notice of any winding-down of the scheme.

 

“Other businesses may need to continue availing of EWSS and other Government supports. They need a clear signal now that support will be in place for them when they need it.

 

“The hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard. Many businesses haven’t been able to benefit from the reduced VAT rate because they haven’t been able to open. The continuation of the EWSS may be particularly important when they reopen to enable them to claw back some of that lost revenue.

 

“To be able to ride out this crisis and get through it we need the type of supports that ensure people can stay with their employer. This scheme has been doing that extremely well.

 

“We need to continue to provide business owners with certainty, and signal that supports will remain in place throughout 2021.”

Carroll MacNeill calls for the resumption of regular HIV testing and treatment as a matter of urgency 1st February 2021

HIV testing and PrEP services must be prioritised to avoid a spike in infection rates in the wake of Covid-19, a Fine Gael TD has said.

 

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said that while effective treatment now means that HIV positive people can lead healthy lives, early screening and treatment needs to resume to treat the historically high levels of HIV in Ireland.

 

The Dún Laoghaire TD said: “I, like many others, recently watched Channel 4’s brilliant new series, It’s A Sin, which depicts the reality of the HIV epidemic in the UK in the 1980’s. It tells a heart-breaking story and, thankfully, HIV today is a very different story to what it was during the height of the epidemic.

 

“With effective treatment, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives, and can become undetectable so that the virus in their body cannot be transmitted to another person.

 

“I am calling on the Minister for Health to ensure that effective screening and treatment is readily available to everyone, so that people living with HIV can receive timely support and care.

 

“PrEP is the key drug in the fight against HIV in Ireland; using PrEP dramatically reduces your chance of contracting the virus, and, in the event of exposure to the virus, timely intervention with PrEP can prevent the virus establishing itself.

 

“The Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS) is an invaluable public health service for many members of the LGBT+ community, but unfortunately it has been closed since the onset of the pandemic. This has meant the suspension of essential PrEP clinical health services.

“While interim measures have been put in place, PrEP services appointments are fully booked with no slots currently available which highlights the current level of service demand.

“I have written to Minister Roderic O’Gorman previously to ask that he work with Minister Donnelly to reopen the GMHS and allow services to safely resume. We need a cross-Departmental response as the issue is both a health and equality matter.

 

“As Spokesperson for Equality, I have been working with organisations such as the Fine Gael National LGBT+ Committee and BeLongTo, and I know that there’s growing concern that we could face a spike in new HIV infections when regular testing resumes.

 

“Ireland’s rate of infection of HIV is amongst the worst in Europe; there were almost 500 new infections detected in 2019. With testing grinding to an almost complete halt since the onset of the pandemic, we don’t know what levels of infection to expect in 2021.

 

“The suspension of HIV testing will inevitably lead to missed diagnoses. The reality of this infection is that when it’s left untreated it is terminal and deadly. The key is early detection and treatment.

 

“I want to remind people that HIV Ireland offer free home testing kits to anyone who wants them. You are able to read the result yourself within 15 minutes, and if you do receive a positive result, it is important to take urgent action and contact your GP.”

Racism exists in Ireland, and we cannot turn a blind eye to it – Carroll MacNeill 22nd January 2021

IHREC’s campaign #AllAgainstRacism highlights the responsibility individuals have in combatting hateful and racist harassment experienced by too many people in Ireland today, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said that the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s campaign shows that casual and systematic racism is a daily reality for people of different backgrounds.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “The campaign features eleven interviews which give voices to those who aren’t often heard. We must listen to those who share their stories with us, but listening alone does not bring about change.

“We all have a role to play in the fight against racism. It exists in Ireland, and we absolutely cannot turn a blind eye to it.

“The conversation about racism in Ireland has gained momentum throughout the country. People are experiencing it in their homes, in their day to day lives, and in their workplaces.

“I know that colleagues of mine across different political parties have been subjected to campaigns of racial abuse, which was highlighted by the harassment of Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu outside her home yesterday.

“As a society, and as individuals, we have a major role to play in turning the tide against prejudiced and violent hate.

“We must stand up and question hatred and abuse when we see it and send the message that there is no place for it in our country. It is not welcome here and we will not accept it.”

RTÉ and Vodafone should pull ad encouraging Christmas swimmers at Forty Foot 22nd December 2020

RTÉ and Vodafone should pull an ad on the traditional Christmas swim at the Forty Foot in the interest of public safety during the Covid pandemic, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dún Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said the ad which shows a man communicating with his granddaughter on the phone as he takes part in a Christmas swim with other bathers at the Forty Foot is sadly inconsistent this year with the necessary public health messaging that Government is delivering.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “Every year it is wonderful to see Christmas swimmers come to the Forty Foot, but this is one tradition, among many, we need to change just this year.

“It may be accidental, but the otherwise lovely advertisement is still being shown on RTÉ at primetime viewing slots, and we are doing our best to discourage people from crowding the Forty Foot this year. Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, the Gardaí and the HSE have appealed to the public not to visit the site.

“I have contacted the CEO of Vodafone Ireland asking if she would consider pulling the broadcasting of this Vodafone ad over the Christmas period, to ensure we are all on the same page with regard to the public health message.

“This advertisement, while a heart-warming reminder to us of our loved ones abroad and our Christmases past, is a problem in that it could encourage people to meet unnecessarily at a time when there is significant concern about the trajectory of the virus and when people are asked to keep their contacts as low as possible.

“I have urged people to consider doing their dip on a different day; we can’t risk creating serious super spreader events just for a festive jump in the cold water.

“If you do decide to swim on Christmas day, maybe find a quieter spot, make sure that you remember to keep your distance and avoid large gatherings and lingering around afterwards.

“Hopefully this time next year will be different, when we can return to some semblance of normality and come together to enjoy our much-loved traditions once again,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

No Christmas Day swim for Tánaiste at Forty Foot – dry robe or no dry robe – Carroll MacNeill 18th December 2020

While Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was hugely welcomed to Dublin’s Forty Foot last Christmas Day, things are going to be a little different this year, a Fine Gael TD has said.

 

Following an appeal today from Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, the Gardaí and the HSE asking the public not to visit the Forty Foot, Sandycove and Seapoint bathing areas this Christmas, Dún Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said the annual Christmas Day swim is going to look different for everyone this year due to Covid-19 in an effort to keep our friends and family safe over the break.

 

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “I was delighted to join the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Senator Barry Ward for a swim at the Forty Foot last Christmas day, but I’m going to have to ask the Tánaiste to avoid braving the elements for just this year.

 

“Gathering at your local beach on Christmas Day is an important festive tradition for many people around the country, but sadly it’s just not feasible for it to happen in the same way this year.

 

“I urge people to consider doing their dip on a different day, once over the Christmas break is enough of a challenge for anyone and we can’t risk creating serious super spreader events just for a festive jump in the cold water.

 

“If you do decide to swim on Christmas day, maybe find a quieter spot, make sure that you remember to keep your distance and avoid large gatherings and lingering around for a cup of coffee afterwards.

 

“I look forward to welcoming the Tánaiste back to the Dún Laoghaire constituency for a swim next Christmas, but for now we can all get a pass on donning our swimsuits on the 25th – dry robes or no dry robes.”

Victims of domestic abuse need time to decide what to do next – Carroll MacNeill 8th December 2020

Men and women leaving situations of domestic abuse and coercive control must be given the space and time to access support and safety, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said she welcomes the debate on introducing domestic violence leave before the Dáil tonight, which provides for a period of paid leave as a consequence of domestic violence.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “Victims must be given the time to assess their situation and to determine a plan in the best interests of themselves and their children. They may need to move house and/or schools, they may need to establish safety plans, they may need to increase the supports around them.

“In every case, victims need the time and space to do this, and it must not come at a financial or professional cost.

“Progress has been made in tackling domestic violence. We have now had several convictions for coercive control; one in Donegal one in Dublin, and a five-year barring order for coercive control in Clare.

“Within my own constituency of Dún Laoghaire, a ‘no access’ recommendation was made by a Section 47 assessor in a family law case where the issue of control was at its core. Something I honestly wondered would I ever see back when I made my maiden Dáil speech on this subject.

“I am not the only person surprised – Catriona Gleeson of Safe Ireland made the same observation in relation to the criminal conviction at the Law Society Family and Child Law Conference last month.

“We’re beginning to see real cultural change, as well as change within our Courts and legal proceedings in terms of convictions and assessments. But this is only the beginning of change.

“The next thing to watch, especially over the Christmas period, is the use, by preparators, of ‘welfare checks’ to continue to exert control. This occurs in situations where a victim has left a partner, but the partner continues to use Gardaí to check on the welfare of the child.

“Often there is no substantive evidence to back up the needs for such check, while they force Gardaí to show up at victim’s home. This can occur at any time, causing a huge amount of distress and anxiety to the victim and their children.

“Progress has been made, but there is much further still to go to really turn the tide against domestic violence and coercive control.”

Remote voting bill removes barrier to maternity leave for politicians – Carroll MacNeill 8th December 2020

A Bill to allow for remote voting in the Houses of the Oireachtas has been introduced today by a Fine Gael TD.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said it is time the Constitution was modernised to protect a functioning parliament in extraordinary circumstances and that this pandemic has shone a light on the overly restrictive nature of the constitutional requirement to be present for every vote in every circumstance.

The Dún Laoghaire TD said the practical measures proposed in the Bill would also pave the way for maternity and paternity leave for elected representatives.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “We have had lots of talk about maternity leave for politicians. This Bill is part of that conversation and is one of the first steps towards flexible maternity provision for TDs and Senators. At a minimum, maternity or paternity provision requires the possibility of remote or proxy voting.

“It is not my intention, by introducing this Bill, to prescribe the way in which maternity leave for members should be provided. It is horribly paternalistic for us to continue to tell women how to organise their time.

“Maternity leave may look different for each Member of the Oireachtas depending on their circumstances – some may choose to take an extended period of time off, some may choose to continue working as much as possible while staying at home, some may wish to continue working in their office.

“This Bill is just as relevant for the other parent, who should also have the option of voting remotely. They too are needed at home more during this phase, to be with their child and provide support for their partner.

“I am glad today to have the support of my party but particularly Deputies Alan Dillon and Neale Richmond, and Ministers Martin Heydon and Patrick O’Donovan – all of whom have had recently had babies in their families and for whom a degree of flexibility should be acknowledged.

“We cannot change a culture that leaves women behind without approaching everything equally. Parenting is not a gendered issue. Work is not a gendered issue.

“I believe all workers who are parents with young children should be afforded parental discretion, including members of the Oireachtas. It should be the parents’ choice together as to how to spend the weeks and months following the birth, or adoption, of their new baby.

“While the issue of maternity leave is a live one, this Bill is just as important for those members who are or who may become immune-compromised through illness – which can happen to any of us. Failure to provide for people with long term immune-compromising illnesses may also be a barrier to a more inclusive Oireachtas.

“And, though I hope we will never need it, it may be important for the future operation for our parliament in any future emergency.

“This Bill attempts to remove the constitutional barrier, it would then be up to the Houses of the Oireachtas to make their rules for how it would operate”, concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

Survey on sexual harassment to reveal true experiences of third level students and staff – Carroll MacNeill 26th November 2020

Today’s announcement from Minister Simon Harris confirming a survey into bullying and sexual harassment in higher education institutions, will offer a platform for students and staff to share their first-hand experience of the endemic sexual violence within our HEIs, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said.

The Dún Laoghaire TD welcomed the announcement from the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, which follows a letter last July from the Minister to Presidents of HEIs requiring the development of specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “I welcome today’s news from Minister Harris that the HEA will be working with higher education institutions to undertake a survey on sexual harassment and bullying of both staff and students in our HEIs.

“Sexual violence must not be a routine experience for any young man or woman during their time in university. Today’s announcement is one of the first, but by no means the last steps in putting an end to sexual and gender-based violence in our universities and colleges.

“It’s important that both students and staff feel that their voices are being heard and are offered a platform to share their experiences. It’s particularly important to offer this platform within HEIs due to the extremely low levels of reporting of sexual assault by students.

“The results from the survey will provide us with quantitative and qualitative data which will be used to inform decisions and policy-making going forward. Today’s announcement means that Government policies will be informed by the individual experiences of students and staff in our third level institutions.

“Over the past few months, I’ve met with University student unions and the Irish Secondary Schools Union for whom consent and sexual violence is a real concern. I welcome today’s step from the Minister and while action plans and surveys are key components of tackling sexual violence at third level, what we ultimately need is to break this cycle of sexual violence. The only way to truly break it is with a comprehensive and very new and very different approach to relationship and sexual education.

“Consent classes at third level must continue. But research indicates that education at this stage of development for young adults is far too late to prevent incidents of assault. The response we need to end this endemic sexual and gender violence is the education of personhood and respect for our five year olds and beyond.”

Radically different approach to sexual education needed now – Carroll MacNeill 19th November 2020

The only way to break the endemic sexual and gender-based violence in our country is with a comprehensive and new approach to relationship and sexual education, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dún Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill was speaking today in the Dáil following reports of the non-consensual sharing of thousands of intimate images of girls and women online.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “We know the practice of publishing intimate images without consent is a major problem in Ireland today. The effect on the victim is one of complete powerlessness, of humiliation and indeed of permanence  to them and their perception of their reputation. It is an aggressive act, an assault on their person, even if there is no visible scar.

“In the last two years, 118 children have been referred to the Garda Youth Diversion Office for the dissemination of child abuse material. They didn’t necessarily realise they were committing an offence, but what is shows is at that early age, a worrying lack of concern for boundaries, for the sense of the personhood of the victim.

“It is that lack of boundaries, it is that sense of disregard for personhood that can form the seed for the sense that one is entitled to exert themselves on any other person.

“Sexual violence, gender violence and domestic abuse are the exertion of one person on another – whether by non-consensually publishing pictures of their intimate body or by forcing them to receive unwanted images. By controlling someone psychologically. By cutting them off from their family. By beating them and terrorising them and threating them.

“We’ve seen these acts for generations. We have new names for it yes – martial rape, coercive control, domestic abuse, and we have new technologies for its commission – phone stalking, image sharing and so on. But it is all rooted in that same sense of exertion and entitlement.

“The only way to break that exertion is with a comprehensive and very new and very different approach to relationship and sexual education. So that when I or anyone else drops their child to school, that we can look around at the children and hope that the challenges that faced us and face us still, have some chance of being interrupted, of being broken. Of being different for them.

“The response we need to end this endemic of sexual and gender violence is the education of our five years olds and beyond. Now. All of the other measures can only be sticking plasters, they will never address the injury.” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said

5km restriction does not apply to victims of domestic violence – Carroll MacNeill Victims of domestic abuse can travel outside their 5km to escape harm or access support services 15th November 2020

For those who find themselves in situations of domestic violence or coercive control, essential services are open to support them throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Vice Chair of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, said that as people have been asked once again to stay at home, for some, home may not be the safest option.

Reiterating the message of the Government’s Still Here campaign, the Dún Laoghaire TD said, “The message I want to communicate today is clear: if your home isn’t safe, support is still here.

“You are allowed to travel outside your 5km and help is readily available to you. Domestic violence services throughout the country are open and operating.

“Domestic abuse is a violent, psychological and deeply personal crime, and it continues to be one of the biggest threats to women and children during this pandemic.

“Earlier this week we saw the publication of Safe Ireland’s report Tracking the Shadow Pandemic.  The report highlighted the continued threat of domestic abuse during Covid-19, with calls to domestic violence services up 25% over the pandemic period.

“Safe Ireland’s report also showed that almost 3,500 women contacted a domestic violence service for the first time during the March – August period.

“Fine Gael is committed to tackling domestic violence; to do more to support victims — both men and women — and also to be tougher on the perpetrators of these horrific crimes.

“An increase of €2.7 million was announced last month as part of Budget 2021 to combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. But we need to see the consistent provision of funds, in a timely manner, to our partner domestic violence support service providers to make sure that they have the tools they need to support victims.

“I am in constant discussion with domestic violence outreach organisations and support services, and it’s clear that the Covid period has shone a light on violence and manipulation like never before” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

No rainbows or pots of gold for Sinn Féin in international corporate tax policy – Carroll MacNeill 5th November 2020

Sinn Féin need to stop misleading the public that there is a mysterious pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when it comes to the Apple Tax case, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill called on Sinn Féin to get real and drop the reckless rhetoric when it comes to Foreign Direct Investment.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “At the Public Accounts Committee today, it was confirmed there are no rainbows in international corporate tax, and if there are, there are certainly no pots of gold at the end of them.

“The Secretary General of the Department of Finance very clearly stated that the Apple Tax money is not available to be spent in Ireland. It is irresponsible for Sinn Féin, or anybody else for that matter, to repeatedly suggest to the public that this money is somehow available to the Irish exchequer.

“It is a fact that if spent, and the Irish state’s position of retrospective tax certainty is again vindicated in the European Court of Justice, that the Irish state then would become liable for that spend to Apple.

“Ireland would not just look ridiculous, but actually be ridiculous in that scenario. It would also be deeply negligent in the management of our public finances.

“That reputational damage, which is underpinning our capacity to borrow at present, would not be recovered.

“What would be the reaction of international funds, from whom we are borrowing tens of billions of euro to help fund our COVID-19 response, if we were to spend the Apple tax money knowing that we would ultimately be liable for its repayment to Apple?”

Deputy Carroll MacNeill continued: “There is a naivety or wilful recklessness in Sinn Féin about the role of Foreign Direct Investment in Ireland.

“Sinn Féin are perfectly happy to spend the proceeds of the corporate tax and PAYE tax generated by FDIs but do nothing to protect that sector, to protect the tax certainty and retrospective tax certainty that is the principle that Ireland is seeking to defend in the Apple tax case.

“In fact, Sinn Féin regard the vindication of Ireland’s tax certainty case as a ’bad day for the taxpayer’.

“That FDI base in Ireland is providing an employment base and a corporate tax base. The ancillary economic activity this generates is helping to keep the ship afloat in these difficult days.

“Sinn Féin’s populist policies on public finances just don’t add up.

“Their election manifesto was described as dangerous and highly irresponsible by leading economists and their alternative Budget south of the border proposed measures Sinn Féin were unable to implement in the North of Ireland.

“Voters need real solutions and policies and not populist pots of gold at the end of fictional rainbows.”

Garda powers should be extended to include the policing of face coverings at outdoor demonstrations – Carroll MacNeill 20th October 2020

The wearing of face coverings at large outdoor gatherings, including organised protests and demonstrations, should be made mandatory, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dún Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill believes that the powers granted to An Garda Síochána to police the wearing of face coverings in shops and on public transport should be extended to include policing at large outdoor gatherings of people.

“Over the past number of weeks, we have seen gatherings of large groups across Dublin city. These gatherings have taken the form of organised protests and marches, as well as unofficial gatherings of people.

“At the majority of these events, many of those in attendance do not wear face coverings. It is near impossible in such situations to maintain social distancing. It is therefore concerning for the general public to see large groups of people gather in such ways, and I know many people who have expressed their worry and concern upon seeing or encountering these groups.

“I am calling on Minister McEntee to consider extending the powers granted to An Garda Síochána under Statutory Instrument 296 of 2020 which mandates that mandatory face coverings are to be worn in certain premises and businesses by all persons who do not have a reasonable excuse.

“The Gardaí should have the discretionary power to police the wearing of face coverings in two specific situations: 1) organised protests or marches that have permission from An Garda Síochána to take place, and 2) large gatherings of people that appear to An Garda Síochána to have been organised, such as unofficial gatherings outside courthouses and so on, which are clearly organised and waiting for a specific person or event. Many of those attending such events have not worn face coverings and have coincided with anti-mask commentary on social media.

“Such powers must be underpinned by penal provisions, with failure to comply resulting in an on-the-spot monetary fine.

“This is already happening in countries across Europe. For example, in Luxembourg, people who do not wear a face covering in situations where they are not able to observe a two-metre distance in public spaces are subject to a €145 fine. In addition, all pedestrians in public areas in Paris must wear face masks.” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

Notes

International comparisons of policing of face coverings:

• In Luxembourg, mask wearing is compulsory in situations where a person cannot abide by the two-metre social distancing requirement. People who do not comply are subject to fines of €145.
• In France, as of 28 August, all pedestrians must wear face coverings in all public areas in Paris. Many French cities and towns have also made it compulsory to wear coverings outdoors in busy areas.
• In Belgium, the wearing of face masks is compulsory in parks, on streets or in any other public sites, as well as in private space accessible to the public.
• In Spain, face masks are mandatory in all public spaces, as they are in Greece and Hong Kong.

Nine out of ten people believe policing of sexual offences must be top priority – Carroll MacNeill 14th October 2020

A fundamental rethink is needed in our approach to gender-based and sexual violence, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dún Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill was speaking following the publication yesterday of An Garda Síochána’s 2019 Public Attitudes Survey.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill, who is Vice-Chair of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, said, “According to the survey of 6,000 respondents, 97% of them believe that the policing of sexual offences needs to be the Gardaí’s top priority. This was the case regardless of age, gender, social class or nationality.

“A staggeringly large proportion of respondents indicated their belief that sexual offences should be a top priority for An Garda Síochána. It is completely understandable, yet deeply concerning, that the issue of sexual offences is of such concern to so many people. The results reflect the devastating impact sexual offences have on people’s mental, physical and emotional health.

“The report also highlights how young people today are equally concerned about sexual assault and violence. 96% of the cohort of 16 and 17-year-old respondents were also of the opinion that sexual offences should be the Gardaí’s top focus.

“This highlights the need for a radical review of the sexual and relationship education curriculum in our schools. Further sexual consent education and classes are also urgently needed, as much to educate for the future and prevent incidents of such offences, but also so that we can expand and develop the conversations we have about this issue.

“Sexual violence, assault and rape are huge gender issues. Victims of such offences are predominantly girls and women and the consequences of this are wide-reaching in the underpinning of gender inequality in our society. However, this is not exclusively a gender issue and it is important to remember that men can also be victim to sexual violence.

“This is an historically underreported area. A better approach for victim recognition and support is urgently needed.

“I welcome the important and urgent work my colleague, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, TD, is currently undertaking. She has met with numerous representative groups and has prioritized the provision of supports for vulnerable witnesses in sexual offence cases.

“She is working to quickly develop the Implementation Programme in order to expedite the response to the O’Malley report. It is clear that the Minister and the Government are taking this issue as seriously as the general public feel about it.” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

Divisional Protective Services Units will ensure victims of crime are supported during investigation process – Carroll Mac Neill 30th September 2020

The nationwide rollout of Garda Divisional Protective Services Units will ensure victims of domestic and sexual violence are adequately supported when they present to authorities, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said.

The Divisional Protective Services Units, which have now been rolled out in all Garda divisions, will support the delivery of a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of sexual and domestic crime.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “The dedicated nature of these units means quick access to a sensitively trained and highly informed groups of Gardai for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

“It will mean that victims may present at any time, looking for safety. Staff who are assigned to DPSUs have been provided with a specialised training course consisting of a number of modules addressing issues such as: investigation of sexual crime; child protection; investigation of domestic abuse; online child exploitation and sex offender management.

“My colleague, Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, had indicated that the rollout of the units should be completed by the end of September following the publication of the O’Malley Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences in August.

“The Minister has now confirmed that Divisional Protective Services Units have now been rolled out in all Garda divisions following a meeting with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

“Worryingly during the lockdown period, there has been a sharp rise in reported incidents of domestic violence as women and their partners remain at home more and we need to ensure that everything is done to prevent this abuse.

“That is why Divisional Protective Services Units are so crucial in support of victims coming forward at a most distressing and vulnerable time in their lives and I thank Minister McEntee for her commitment to tackling domestic, sexual and gender based violence,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded.

Constitution must be modernised to protect functioning parliament in times of emergency – Carroll MacNeill 18th August 2020

A Bill to safeguard the functioning of the Houses of the Oireachtas in times of emergency has been published by a Fine Gael TD.

 

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said it is time the Constitution was modernised to protect a functioning parliament in extraordinary circumstances and that the option for remote voting in limited situations was a necessary part of that change.

 

The Dún Laoghaire TD said the practical measures proposed in the Bill would also pave the way for maternity leave for elected representatives.

 

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “At present, only members of the Oireachtas who are “present and voting” may vote in parliamentary proceedings.

 

“This is appropriate in so called “normal” times – being a member of parliament is a huge privilege – and turning up and voting is the most basic part of exercising that privilege on behalf of the community you represent.

 

“However, this pandemic has shone a light on the overly restrictive nature of the constitutional requirement to be present for every vote, in every circumstance.

 

“In an emergency, we need our Government to protect its people through the passage of emergency legislation.

 

“It is time now to proof our parliament against the effects of pandemics and future emergencies that we cannot envisage today; events in which shared physical presence becomes the antithesis of public service.

 

“There are at least three foreseeable situations in which the option of remote or proxy voting would be desirable in the public interest.

 

“They are: 

 

1. Provision for the operation of the Houses during an emergency preventing physical presence of members, such as a pandemic.

2. Provision for members who are or become immuno-compromised.

3. Provision for members who have recently had, or adopted, a baby and/or are the primary caregivers of that infant. 

 

“Not alone could this prepare us for any future waves or pandemics, it would also form the first necessary step in considering further arrangements that may be made for maternity leave for TDs and Senators.

 

“We have had lots of talk about maternity leave for politicians; this is the only way to take the first step towards it and I really hope this measure will be supported by every person interested in a more representative Dáil in the medium to long term.

 

“At a minimum, maternity or paternity provision requires the possibility of remote or proxy voting.

 

“This Bill removes this constitutional block and enables each House of the Oireachtas to make specific arrangements for such vacancies in its standing orders. This then has the added advantage of being flexible over time to account for situations we cannot imagine today.”

 

Deputy Carroll MacNeill concluded: “This Bill is not intended for casual vacancies. It is the enabling of new rules for how we govern remotely, if and when that ever became imperative again, and it is the first step to a more inclusive parliament for parents and those with additional physical needs.

“Having a family or, through no fault of your own becoming ill, should not preclude you from participation in your duties as an elected representative. The rules governing the Houses of the Oireachtas should not actually limit the functionality of the people’s chamber to work when our people may need it most.”

ENDS

The new proposed Article 15.11.4 states:

“Each House may make its own rules and standing orders providing for special and limited circumstances by which members not present in that House may vote when any matter, or any class of matter as so provided for, is to be determined by a vote of that House.”

Sinn Féin trolls need to be disciplined by Mary Lou McDonald – Carroll MacNeill SF engaged in organised online bullying 11th August 2020

It is time Mary Lou McDonald took action against the Sinn Féin trolls who are destroying Irish public discourse and bullying and intimidating people, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dun Laoghaire TD, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, was speaking after a Sinn Féin member in Wexford resigned from the party after using false social media profiles to abuse businessmen, politicians and celebrities.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill highlighted that Sinn Féin is engaged in organised online bullying and she is calling on all parties to give its members and supporters clear instructions about online communications.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “Mary Lou McDonald needs to take action in relation to the online trolls associated with her party who are destroying Irish public discourse and bullying and intimidating people.

“Will she make a statement in relation to this latest example where a Sinn Féin Party member in Wexford has been caught using a Twitter account to troll politicians of other parties as well as various high-profile people around the country. Another Wexford based anonymous account was trolling people using the name ‘P O’Neill’, the well-known Provisional IRA code-name.

“Ahead of the new Dáil term, every party should make a clear statement about how its members and representatives communicate on social media. All parties should instruct their members to use their real names online, and not fake accounts.

“This is most needed in Sinn Féin as it seems they are actually engaged in organised online bullying. They have recently advertised to recruit online ‘activists’. Any time a member of another party puts something online, they are met with an avalanche of abuse from Sinn Féin activists.

“Chris Andrews was invited to join Sinn Féin less than a year after he had to leave Fianna Fáil due to the fake account he set up to harass and slander his internal party opponents.

“Breege Quinn, who has campaigned for truth following her son’s murder, is at the receiving end of constant online abuse.

“There have been years of examples of bullying in Sinn Féin with a number of members and Councillors having to resign.

“Online abuse is a very unfortunate part of public life today and sadly we see members and supporters of every party getting carried away online when defending a position. However, Sinn Féin activists take it to a new and dangerous level. Sinn Féin is not a normal party. They have allowed a situation to develop where online trolling is the norm.

“When is Mary Lou McDonald going to take action to stamp out this behaviour? Or is it part of their communications strategy to have their members and activists engaged in this activity online?”

First year college students need to be aware of dangers of coercive control & sexual violence warns Carroll MacNeill 27th July 2020

First year college year students must be aware of the very real dangers posed by sexual violence and coercive control, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has warned.

The Dun Laoghaire TD, who is Vice-Chair of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party welcomes today’s announcement from Minister Simon Harris that colleges will be required to publish action plans on sexual harassment and consent.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said: “A third of female students have reported that they have been raped. Two thirds have reported having been sexually harassed. Sexual assault is an epidemic in this country. And yet we don’t have accurate data around the prevalence of it in our third level institutions.

“I had a conversation today with UCD Students’ Union officers about the importance of sexual education and consent for young people. They highlighted the incidence of rape and sexual abuse in third level institutions. This threat is especially significant for incoming first year students who can be particularly vulnerable to such violence.

“I am pleased Minister Harris has committed to an annual survey to obtain accurate data on the number of students and staff experiencing sexual harassment.

“Students can be particularly vulnerable to coercive control. Away from the support network of family and friends, students can find themselves isolated in abusive and controlling relationships. We only need to look to the case of Scottish student Emily Drouet, who took her own life having been subjected to a campaign of abuse and violence from her boyfriend, to see the actual impact of coercive control on students.

“As young people transition from secondary school to third level education, alongside greater independence comes a significant risk of rape and sexual abuse. Many students leave the security and safety of home behind as they move away and begin living independently. The very real experience of this is illustrated in the video Control – The Story Of An Abusive Relationship, which I would encourage students and parents to watch.

“Sexual harassment and rape are not problems unique to third level institutions. We need root and branch reform and we need a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. It must begin with sexual education in our schools, and the implementation of a comprehensive and national consent framework across our colleges. Education is key and I am pleased Minister Harris is taking the lead on this.”

Sinn Féin’s July stimulus claims do not stack up – Carroll MacNeill 24th July 2020

WITH no practical solutions of their own to offer, Sinn Féin have made a series of false claims about the stimulus package, for their own politics, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said the Government initiative is the country’s biggest ever cash stimulus plan.

“People are working hard this morning to apply the stimulus package to their own situation. As opposed to working with that and offering viable solutions, Sinn Féin immediately attempt to sell false stories and discredit plans to get our businesses and people back on their feet and working. But it doesn’t help anyone get a job, keep a job or keep their hardworking business going today.

“Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty have made a series of false claims. Let’s examine some of their five big false claims they have already made,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said. 

  1. Nothing for low paid – False.

Everyone who pays income tax benefits from the VAT cut and Stay and Spend initiative. This stimulus will help get people get back to work in sectors like retail and hospitality.

  1. Nothing for man in the van – False

There will be a new income tax relief for self-employed individuals who were profitable in 2019 but, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, incur losses in 2020.

  1. Favours loans over grants – False

€2bn loans vs €3bn in direct supports for businesses.

The financial supports include €1.9bn in wage subsidies to help employers keep trading through this difficulty period and €600m in rates waivers.

The Restart Grant Fund has been so successful to date, 42,000 businesses have applied and €128m in grants of up to €10,000 to help with reopening been paid out. This has been increased to €25,000 from a total pot of €550m.

  1. Better deal in the North – False

The wage subsidy scheme expires in October in the North and the unemployed there have only got £94.25 a week compared to €350 here. This is Sinn Féin fantasy economics.

  1. Stimulus isn’t big enough – False

There is €7.4bn in this plan including tax, expenditure and credit supports.

The Government has responded to the pandemic by borrowing heavily to support Irish people and businesses affected – under current plans we will borrow around €30 billion to stimulate the economy this year.

The Government is also reconfirming our plans to grow infrastructure expenditure next year by €1bn, or 12%, to over €9bn.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “So even looking at the headline claims of Sinn Féin’s leadership, this does not stack up. But when ever do Sinn Féin claims?

“The work done by key Government departments on this will stand the test of time. Fine Gael have led this country out of one recession less than ten years ago. And we’ll do it again,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

Many women unaware of serious risks to children exposed to anti-epileptic drug during pregnancy – Carroll MacNeill 8th July 2020

A survey conducted by Epilepsy Ireland shows there are women taking the anti-epileptic drug valproate, who are still not aware of the significant physical and neurological risks to children exposed to the medicine in-utero, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said.

The Dún Laoghaire representative pointed out that while significant efforts have been made by the State in recent years to alert women to the possible birth defects caused by the drug, only two-thirds of women who take the drug are aware of the risk of developmental disabilities in children exposed in the womb.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “Evidence shows that up to 30-40% of children exposed to the drug valproate during pregnancy will experience serious developmental disorders. Approximately 10% will face congenital malformations.

“The results of Epilepsy Ireland’s survey show that the percentage of women who were aware of the risks increased from 33% in 2016 to 79% in 2020. I welcome this increased awareness, alongside the fact that women are having more conversations about the issue with their healthcare providers.

“However, it remains the case that 3 in 10 women have never discussed the risks of valproate with their healthcare team. Compounding this is the lack of awareness of the Pregnancy Prevention Programme (PPP) which ensures that women understand the risks of the drug if they become pregnant. Almost 75% of women surveyed have never heard of the PPP.

“Additionally, only 30% of respondents said that they had received a letter from the HSE informing them of the risks associated with valproate.

“More needs to be done to ensure women are fully aware of all risks associated with the drug and we also need to ensure increased awareness of the PPP. I plan to raise these issues with the new Minister for Health at the earliest opportunity.”

Insurance companies must not hike up premiums for small and medium enterprises in the wake of Covid-19 – Carroll MacNeill 30th June 2020

The Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Directorate (CPD) must ensure that businesses and employers are not gouged by insurance companies in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said.

The Dún Laoghaire representative pointed out that businesses across the country are facing the possibility of a significant increase in their insurance premiums which could result in unnecessary closures.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “Small and medium enterprises is a sector which is particularly vulnerable to insurance hikes. Business owners are working exceptionally hard to implement the health and safety measures that are necessary as we reopen our economy and society during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Government has put in place a suite of measures totalling €12 billion to support businesses that are negatively impacted by Covid-19. The measures and supports available range from loans to grants to vouchers to rates waived and deferred tax liabilities.

“They include direct grants and supports such as the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and the €250m Restart Grant Fund, liquidity supports such as 0% finance for 6 months from MicroFinance Ireland, rates waivers from local authorities and the warehousing of tax liabilities of SMEs by Revenue.

“We must ensure that these supports are not there for paying hiked-up insurance bills, but rather so that businesses can develop and reopen in a safe way.

“I am calling on insurers to take stock and think before sending out their next premiums to small businesses. Hiked-up insurance costs will only increase costs for business and consumers.

“It could also force the closure of otherwise viable small businesses providing competition in the market or increase the strength of big market players at the expense of diversity and competition in the market, which is so important for cost competitiveness.

“Now is not the time for gouging, now is the time to be a community player in a business market. Because of my concern, I have drawn this issue to the attention of the Consumer Protection Directorate in the Central Bank.”

Bríd Smith must apologise for her ultra-populist attack on Judge & state her support for the Judiciary – Carroll MacNeill 25th June 2020

A Fine Gael TD has called on Bríd Smith to apologise for her attack on an Irish High Court judge.

Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said, “Our constitutional politics has stood the tests of several decades, including through the darkest days of the existential challenges to the state from dissidents, only because of the mutual respect for the legislature and judiciary.

“The simple rule is that elected representatives should never comment on the decisions of judges in individual cases, sentences in individual cases or the organisation and management of the administration of justice. Similarly, judges don’t comment on the law-making process which is the preserve of the Oireachtas.

“This unacceptable attack by an elected member of Dáil Éireann undermines the protection of the judiciary, who in turn protect minorities, the rule of law and the stability of our political and legal system.

“The ultra-populist tone seems now already sadly well established in our political discourse, including the Trumpian practice of marshalling armies of social media supporters to amplify and intensify attacks on public representatives or anyone on the other side of a falsely created ‘us and them’.

“Deputy Bríd Smith’s attack is a new ultra-low in the race to the bottom of this ultra-populism.

“We have seen where this approach goes in the past. We see it today in the disintegration of established democracies in the US and the UK, we see our judicial counterparts in Poland under sustained attack with the concomitant impact on the protection of minorities.

“When the independence of the judiciary is gone, we can forget about our constitutional democracy.

“I am calling on Deputy Smith to immediately withdraw her remark, apologise and publicly state her support for the protection of our independent judiciary and the separation of powers. Nothing less is acceptable,” Deputy Carroll MacNeill said.

Focus on domestic violence and coercive control part of a Programme for Government that prioritises women – Carroll MacNeill Free contraception and a focus on period poverty also form part of progressive measures for the next government 19th June 2020

A focus on domestic violence and coercive control are part of a range of commitments for women in what is a progressive Programme for Government, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dun Laoghaire TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said: “The new Programme for Government is strong on progressive commitments for women. It is so important to see the document recognise that we are experiencing an epidemic of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

“The Programme for Government commits the new government to an audit of how responsibility for domestic sexual and gender-based violence is segmented across different government agencies, and to develop proposals on what infrastructure is needed to ensure that the issue is dealt with in the most effective manner possible.

“The document also commits the next government to investigate the provision of paid leave and social protection provision to victims of domestic violence. This builds on work completed recently by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, to make Rent Supplement more easily available to victims of domestic violence. It allows anyone experiencing domestic violence to get immediate access to Rent Supplement for a three month period to ensure that they are not prevented from leaving their home because of financial concerns.

“The Programme for Government also commits to implementing a plan for future refuge space on the publication of a review of domestic violence accommodation provision. This is urgently needed and it is positive that it is provided for in the document.

“The issue of coercive control, something on which I have been working for some time, is also highlighted in the Programme for Government, which commits to training for professionals who may have contact with a victim of this very serious crime.

“The provision of free contraception and a focus on the issue of period poverty, are also key parts of what is a progressive Programme for Government,” continued Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

“This is the first time the issue of period poverty has been highlighted in a Programme for Government. As part of a range of measures to increase supports for students, the document commits the next Government to providing a range of free, adequate, safe, and suitable period products in all educational publicly-funded settings (including schools, colleges and HEIs), to ensure that no students are disadvantaged in their education by period poverty.

“This is a really welcome move and builds on work undertaken by Fine Gael in the outgoing Government, which set up a sub-committee under the National Strategy for Women and Girls (NWSG), on the issue of period poverty. I also commend the work of the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus for highlighting the importance of this during the last Dáil.

“According to the document, the next government will also provide free contraception over a phased period, starting with women aged 17-25. This is very significant for women’s health but is also a hugely important follow through on the recommendations of the cross party Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment, as part of measures to reduce crisis pregnancies.

“All in all the Programme for Government is good for women and it has my support. It contains a range of progressive measures on which I look forward to working should this document pass the membership of the three parties looking to create a stable government and ensure Ireland has a prosperous future.”