12 July 2019
Moving forward – Mary Lou McDonald on effective opposition and providing a strong political alternative
Writing in An Phoblacht this week, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD reflects on the last Dáil term
"We, in Sinn Féin, have been through a tough election and with that came analysis and reflection. It is human nature to take time, to heal and to ask tough questions of ourselves."
As the Dáil rises for the summer, it is timely to reflect on the political year that was.
We, in Sinn Féin, have been through a tough election and with that came analysis and reflection. It is human nature to take time, to heal and to ask tough questions of ourselves.
However, it is too easy to forget and to gloss over the very many achievements that Team Sinn Féin has made over the course of the political year.
We now face into the summer and a busy political term ahead. Sinn Féin TDs and Senators are clear in their roles as they strategise, plan and take stock of their respective portfolios.
It is only right to take this time, look back, and remind ourselves what real, effective opposition looks like.
Brexit and the threat of a no-deal crash loomed large over the political year. When Sinn Féin proposed a special designated status for the north of Ireland within the EU, it was dismissed as a pipe dream by commentators and other parties. It is now the policy of the EU and Irish Government and incorporated into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop.
We are on the road to the reunification of our country. This was a year of conversations, of planning and vision. It was a year when increasing numbers of people, north and south, sat up and said that unity is not an aspiration but an achievable goal for this generation of republicans.
This was a year of talking, of Sinn Féin negotiators in the north working to reach an agreement that would ensure working institutions based on respect and equality.
This was the year homelessness breached ten thousand; we heard harrowing stories of families sleeping in Garda stations and childhoods lost in B&Bs and family hubs. Sinn Féin joined Raise the Roof in pressing for a constitutional right to housing and in tabling a myriad legislation and motions to provide a real alternative to the government’s housing chaos.
This was a year of wasteful spending, of the National Children’s Hospital and Broadband overspending scandals.
It was the year of waiting lists, of delayed surgery for children with scoliosis, women with gynaecological problems, children with delayed diagnoses of mental health conditions and record numbers of people left waiting on trolleys in A&Es.
It was a year that again exposed the confidence and supply agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as the grubby deal that it is and for which we all pay the cost.
Despite that, while Sinn Féin activists worked tirelessly on the ground and in communities, Sinn Féin TDs and Senators provided opposition that was effective, radical, and a real alternative to establishment politics.
Here is just a small snapshot of that work:
Progressive legislation published and passed:
No Consent, No Sale (vulture funds) Bill (passed)
Digital Safety Commissioner Bill (passed)
Moneylenders Bill (passed)
Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill to reform the insurance industry (passed)
Tips Bill (passed)
Ticket-touting Bill (passed)
Property Services (Advertisement of Unfit Lettings) Bill (passed)
Bill to establish MABS as stand-alone body (passed)
Bill to return to 20% social and affordable housing under Part V (passed)
Constitutional Right to Housing Bill
Bill to protect families facing eviction from buy to let tenancies
Bill introduced to reform the Long Term Illness scheme
Bill introduced to halt further pension age increases
Bill to introduce a Social Welfare Commission as part of tackling poverty across vulnerable households
Bill introduced to tackle Bogus Self-Employment
Published Freedom Of Information (Oversight of the Office of the President) (Amendment) Bill
Published Bill to deal with the problem of scramblers in communities
Bill to halt further pension age increases published
Introduced the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill
Introduced the Health (Medical Entitlements in Nursing Homes) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill
Focused legislation on climate change introduced:
Waste Reduction (Miscellaneous) Provisions Bill
Forestry (Planning Permission) (Amendment) Bill
Local Authority Climate Action Obligation Bill
Island Fisheries (Heritage Licence) Bill
Microgeneration Support Scheme Bill
Local Government (Water Pollution) (Amendment) Bill
Wind Turbine Regulation Bill
Solar Panel Regulation Bill
Alternative policies highlighted:
Launched a policy document on how to achieve energy efficiency in housing
Living Wage policy document published
Policy Document on JobPath published
Submission to Commission on future of policing
Produced a policy on nurses and midwives covering solutions to the recruitment and retention crisis entitled ‘Time to Stand up for Nurses and Midwives’
Published rural crime policy document
Alternative budget published
Brexit Plan – No Hard Border, Protect the All-Island Economy
Policy document on the rainy day fund published
Launched a national women’s health policy entitled ‘A Vision for Women’s Health’
Published policy paper on domestic homicide reviews
Creating workplace awareness of domestic violence – policy paper
Budgeting for women in a new Ireland – policy paper published
Policy Document on JobPath published
Published Carers Policy Document
Effective opposition in the Dáil and Seanad
Ensured student accommodation now included in rent pressure zone legislation
Successful negotiation of inclusion of sentencing guidelines in the Judicial Council Bill
Motion on an Autism Empowerment Strategy and setting up of dedicated Oireachtas committee passed with unanimous support
Climate change minority report published
Passed motion to set up a committee focussed on an autism empowerment strategy
Played a significant role in pressurising Government for approval of Spinraza drug for Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Passed amendments to ensure the CEO of the HSE will not hold any other office or employment or carry on any other business than that of running the HSE
Passed a motion on protecting Home Help services
Passed amendments calling for the expansion of the new-born screening services to guarantee that every child born in the State has the right to be screened at birth for any disease for which there is a viable treatment
Passed a motion supporting nurses and midwives and proposing solutions to their strike
Passed a motion to scrap the JobPath scheme
Succeeded in having two amendments passed in the Dáil on Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation bill to ensure health and well-being of local residents is taken into consideration by airport noise regulator
The Banded Hours Scheme to the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act – Sinn Féin amendment accepted at committee stage that established the banded hours scheme itself
Contributed to Report of the Future of Mental Health Committee
Successfully amended motion in Dáil to call on government to: Install a new Director of Mental Health in the HSE, develop an information system for mental health services, provide a legal right to a care plan, publish a costed implementation plan for the provision of 24/7 adult and child services, commit to no freeze on recruitment or overtime for essential staff as well as advancing patients’ rights through health care directives and a new Mental Health Act
Achieved cross-party support for motion in relation to Toxic Chemical Exposure for members of the Air Corps