Category: Speeches in Parliament

Speeches in Parliament by Martina Anderson MEP.

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said the remain vote of the North must be respected to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

Speaking at the Unite for Rights conference she hosted in Louth, Ms Anderson said; мифы о строительстве фундамента и дома в целом

“This conference is very timely as we, as a community, face several challenges in relation to the protection of our hard-earned and essential rights for people with disabilities. 

“We face the challenges of austerity, the failure to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the British government’s plan to scrap the Human Rights Act and we face Brexit.

“It is shameful and unacceptable that the Irish government has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

“It has taken decades to build rights and protections, to put people at the centre of policies, whether at a European level or indeed here. 

“Brexit will take us backwards. We need to unite to protect those rights. 

“The people of the north voted to remain and we need to raise our voices and demand that our vote is fully recognised and respected.”

Maidin maith, a charide, failte raiobh.

I’m delighted to be hosting this event, Unite For Rights, on the rights of persons with disability in Ireland.

I feel this conference is very timely as we, as a community, face several challenges in relation to the protection of our hard-earned and essential rights.

We face the challenges of austerity driven politics on this island and in Britain, we face the lack of ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we face the scrapping of the Human Rights Act and we face Brexit.

Later sessions of this conference will address the rest of these points, this session will address Brexit.

We believe that the interests of the people of Ireland are best served as members of the European Union.

To that end, Sinn Fein campaigned vigorously for the north to remain in the EU. We did so with particular focus on the island of Ireland as a whole. It is simply unacceptable that one part of Ireland remains a member of the EU as another part of the country is dragged out of the EU against our will.

Yet that is the reality we face.

Sinn Féin critically engages with the European Union.  We support what is positive and in the interests of Ireland, oppose what is not
Sinn Féin MEPs work on a daily basis to reform the EU, to deliver prosperity and safeguard the rights of citizens, to respect the sovereignty of member nations and to force the EU to be transparent and fully accountable

Our position is very clear:

It is clear that economically we will be devastated if we are dragged out of the EU against our will however the social consequences of this are even more worrying.

The EU has for decades brought about rights and entitlements to end discrimination against all sectors of society. Many of these decisions have a direct and positive impact on persons with disabilities.

The Social Chapter, part of the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, for example featured legislation relevant to people with disabilities requiring all European countries to adopt the standardized Blue Badge allowing parking concessions for people with disabilities.

The Employment Equality Framework Directive, which is a major part of EU labour law, combats discrimination in the workplace on grounds of disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and age.

In 2000, The Employment Equality Directive required all Member States to prohibit disability discrimination in employment.

In 2004, an EU Directive was brought forward requiring that the packaging of all medical products must include the label in Braille
The EU Air Passengers Regulation in 2006 established the rights of access for disabled passengers.

This was followed by similar regulations for rail, sea, bus and coach in 2011.

In 2009 the Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding.

In 2009 the EU adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities committing Member States to uphold and protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

The south of Ireland, remains just one of two EU countries, who have failed to ratify this convention. In recent national reviews of human rights standards, the United Nations have called on the Irish government to ratify as soon as possible.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2009 prohibited discrimination on various grounds, including disability, and recognised the right of people with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence and integration
The Better Regulation Directive also in 2009 established regulation of electronic communication services to facilitate access for disabled users. 

Similar Directives address audio-visual media and radio services.

EU employment law provides a minimum standard below which domestic employment law cannot fall. 

Laws have included prevention of sex and race discrimination as well as certain maternity rights.  EU law has often forced the British government to accept new categories of employment rights.
These obligations will be removed from the British Government after Brexit. 

Brexit will mean that the British government is not legally bound by any of these directives.  There will be no onus on them to ensure protections against discrimination as laid out by the European Union.

We already know from experience that the Tory government has no regard for those in need of support, those who are discriminated against and the most vulnerable in society. 

We have already seen the impact of their cuts to benefits where people with disabilities will be affected disproportionally.

The British Government currently plans to cut up to £1000 per year from benefits for disabled families. This move would see 3 million families affected.

This is an indication of the British Government’s opinion on persons with disabilities!

After Brexit, they will have no European Union obligations to maintain and that is a cause for great concern.

Some EU rights have direct effect, meaning that individuals can rely directly on EU law. Brexit would mean these rights would automatically cease to apply with no ‘domestic’ law offering the same protections.

Brexit will therefore impact on:

For people with disabilities, many of the protections that enable them to work and not to be discriminated against by employers are protections that are underpinned by EU law – they will lose out if member states are not bound by these.

In addition, the loss of the European Social Fund would have a huge impact on people with a disability.  Necessary services and expertise may be lost.

The European Disability Strategy, that runs to 2020, has 8 vital priority areas: Accessibility, Participation, Equality, Employment Education and Training,  Social Protection,  Health and External Action.

EU Member States have worked together to ensure health issues are not affected by national borders – we see it locally with the projects such as the North West Health Innovation Corridor.

The NWHIC spans the arc of the Northwest to include Sligo, Letterkenny, Derry and Coleraine and was launched in May 2013.  Their vision is that by 2020, the Northwest of Ireland will be internationally recognised as a health and social sciences research and innovation zone driving the local economy.

This year I brought a delegation of representatives of the NWHIC to Brussels who met with European Commission representatives from the Directorates for Health, Research, Innovation and Technology.
The NWHIC is an example of how well cross border cooperation can work and it is a positive step towards creating an island wide health care system.

The result of the Brexit referendum would severely hinder this kind of collaboration in the future and the knock on effects of this will be huge.

Movement and regulation of health professionals, procurement rules, medicines and devices and all-island patient entitlement, could all be affected.

In regard to disabled citizens working, studying and living abroad, they are entitled to access to social and health care in the host country and are entitled to receive the same treatment as nationals. 
Brexit, again, could put an end to this if the British government does not accept the continuation of free movement of people.  This will make it more difficult for people with disabilities to work, study and live abroad or even to go on a holiday.

The British government will have to secure bilateral social security agreements with every single EU Member State to ensure people with disabilities can access welfare payments in another country. 
For many disabled people the medicines that they are required to take are heavily regulated.  To reduce risk and bureaucracy, the EU provided legislation designed to harmonise the approach to medicine regulation across the EU.  This too could be lost.

One of the most significant bodies to be created under the EU was the Academic Network of European Disability experts (ANED)
It maintains a pan-European academic network in the disability field to support policy development in collaboration with the Commission’s Disability Unit – Its aim is to support the objectives of a European disability policy towards the goal of full participation and equal opportunities for all disabled people.

We will no longer be central to such policy developments if we are dragged out of Europe.

Other EU agencies operate with the interests of disabled citizens a forethought.  The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), for example, is at the heart of the fight against communicable diseases.

I am gravely concerned that, unless the British government continue to contribute to this organisation, many public health benefits achieved over the past 40 years may be lost.

You can imagine how far down the list of priorities this will be for the current British government!

In regard to the future of the Human Rights Act: this discussion has intensified as it becomes clear that the British government no longer has to comply with the human rights obligations of the EU Treaties.  This would cause a huge change in the judicial system and across our society.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights would not apply to Britain post Brexit and the EU Court of Justice would no longer have any jurisdiction over Britain.

Again this year I brought delegations to Brussels and Strasbourg where I launched legal advice that we had commissioned by Doughty Street Chambers on the Repeal of the Human Rights Act.

We’ll hear more about that in section two when Kate from Doughty Street Chambers will give her presentation.

In my own role I am co-president of the intergroup on disabilities in the European Parliament and rapporteur of the Civil Liberties report on the Implementation of the recommendations from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities within the European Union.

You can find a copy of our report on the USB in your pack.

Although the EU has been central in promoting and protecting rights for people with disabilities there is a long way to go.

The UNCRPD has produced a list of issues identified with the operation of the EU in relation to the rights of persons with disabilities.  They have identified serious short fallings in the EU that we then sought to address.

We called on the European Institutions to fully implement the recommendations of the UN committee as soon as possible and to enhance engagement with the sector on as wide a base as possible.
I am delighted to say that my report was overwhelmingly supported by both the committee and the European Parliament and will inform EU policy making in relation to disabilities in the future.

It has taken decades to build rights and protections, to put people at the centre of policies, whether at a European level or indeed here.
We had to fight for section 75 legislation locally and we have to fight to ensure national governments implement the requirements as agreed through European cooperation.

Brexit will take us backwards. Brexit will enable the British government to tear it up, start again, and who will they seek to benefit?

Recent developments show how important your opinion is and even more importantly, how vital it is that you express it.

The Taoiseach has initiated an all-Ireland ‘conversation’ on Brexit.
In that forum we are promoting achievable measures in order to protect all that I have outlined above.

All Irish voices in this debate must be shouting about securing designated special status for the North. 

That threatens no ones constitutional preference and this State, as a continuing member of the EU, has the right and in our view the obligation, to bring forward such a proposal.

The people of the north voted to remain and we need to raise our voices and demand that our vote is fully recognized and respected.
We need to remain in the EU, get rid of the negative and build on the positive. We need to Unite for Rights!

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson today addressed the European Parliament outlining the reasons why Ireland, north and south, should remain within the EU.

Ms Anderson said,

“Vague promises on competitiveness and semantic victories on an ever closer union won’t satisfy the thirst of the Eurosceptic extreme. 

“The European Union is far from perfect. 

“It is too distant from citizens; it lumbers on with a staggering democratic deficit and drains power from where it should lie, with national parliaments.

“But the EU does offer fundamental protections in the fields of workers’, consumers and human rights. 

“It presents opportunities for progressive forces to unite. 

A member of the Committee for Constitutional Affairs, Ms Anderson continued,

“It has supported the Irish peace process and projects aimed at reducing the impact of the border through INTERREG and Peace funding with examples like the footbridge uniting Pettigo in Co.Donegal and Tullyhammon in Fermanagh. 

“Much needed structural and agricultural funds have made a huge, positive impact on my constituency and there are thousands of constituents with no faith in a British government replacing these funds post Brexit.  

“For these reasons, Sinn Féin will campaign vigorously against a Brexit. Ireland’s place, north and south, is in Europe.” ENDS

Sinn Féin MEP speaks in Strasbourg plenary.

In the European Parliament last week, as I was expressing my disappointment at the outcome of the G20 Summit in relation to the Refugee Crisis, a blue card intervention was used by Olaf Stuger an MEP from the Netherlands.

I want to thank Donegal SF for the invitation to attend and address this selection convention.

Before I begin to talk about the battle here in Donegal over the next 20 weeks, I want to take a moment and look back over the last 20 years.

Because it’s only by us taking time to recognise the journey we’ve travelled that we can today appreciate the magnitude of the threshold on which we now stand.

As Republicans, as Democrats, as Socialists, as Progressives, as Irish Citizens, north and south, we – the people in this hall, our friends, families, communities and neighbours across Ireland – have changed the face of Irish history.

From conflict to politics. From discrimination to progress. From isolation to inclusion.

From the very deepest feelings of desperation and despair, to a new situation that promises the potential of lasting hope.

We have waded through the poison of partition and we now face the prize of creating a new country within our lifetimes.

There’s an old saying that you need old dogs for the hard-road.

And looking around this room, there’s a few old dogs alright – but the sort you could never walk this journey without!

And there are also legendary comrades whom we have lost along the way, not least our friend Eddie Fullerton.

But the thing about those who have come before us, is that they always kept their eye on the future.

And that is what today is all about: the future of this society, from Bunbeg to Ballymurphy; from Ballyshannon to Ballymena.

For too long, Donegal’s past has been dominated by conservative parties.

They have managed the neglect of this county.

You don’t need me to list their catalogue of chaos:

·         Some of the highest unemployment and emigration rates in the country;

·         Poor healthcare provision underwritten by a privatisation agenda; and

·         Failure to deliver serious rail and road infrastructure

The list goes on, and on, and on.  Small towns across this county have been decimated by the scourge of neglect and inequality and emigration.

The Taoiseach and Tanaiste tell us – they’re delivering a recovery.

I’d love to see them tell that to local GAA clubs that can’t even field full teams – because our young people are once again forced to fly to America and Australia.

That’s why the next election is so important.

Yes, there is a historical context with the 1916 centenary celebrations.

And yes, there is a political context with the unresolved issue of partition and its impact in the north.

But this election is also about farming and fishing families in this great county; about corner shops and small business; and about redressing decades of social unfairness and economic injustice.

This election will be a chance to make history for Donegal, and for Sinn Fein.

Just five years ago, SF in Donegal only had four county councillors and no TDs.

Now we have nine county councillors and two of the highest-profile and hardest working TDs in this state.

We now have the chance to return three TDs out of five.  That is titanic.

It has happened through hard-work and high vision: strategies for growth and party development that took ten years and more to deliver.

Sinn Féin as a party must ensure that political power has democratic values at its heart.

We must demonstrate the change is a state of mind, not just a slogan for elections.

That’s why we will – and do – challenge the elites and status quo at every opportunity.

Never forget, Pearse Doherty took the government to the High Court to ensure that Donegal had its fair representation and he then succeeded in winning a by-election.

This forthcoming election is another chance to make real change.

Donegal is being ambitious and taking a risk by running 3 candidates.

It’s the responsibility of everyone in the room to make sure that the risk pays off.

We have to knock every door in the county, explain our strategy and show them that change is possible.

Gary is an excellent addition to the ticket.

He topped the poll in the local election last year, after only a short time in the council.

He has given a radical and progressive voice to the Finn Valley.

I firmly believe he can and will become the first TD in the Finn Valley in decades.

So comrades, we’ve a great job of work ahead.  But I believe we can do it.

In the meantime let’s change the future and let’s win this election.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.

As part of her visit to China for the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson raised human rights issues in China, particularly the plight of human rights lawyers.

In a meeting with leading members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Foreign Affairs Committee, Ms Anderson said: “The international community continues to hear disturbing reports of human rights abuses in both Tibet and Xinjiang province. In both provinces, peoples have been denied the right to self-determination.

“In Xinjiang province today the new ‘anti-terror’ law is being used as a cover for widespread abuses of the Uighur population by the Chinese security forces.“As well as discrimination and attacks on cultural, religious and language rights, I have heard credible reports of state violence, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and unfair trials of human rights activists.“We need to see China commit to improving the human rights situation in Xinjiang province and we urge you to ratify and apply the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

In a meeting with the NPC’s Judicial and Internal Affairs Committee, Ms Anderson questioned the Chinese members on the crackdown on human rights lawyers that has taken place this year.Speaking in the meeting, she said: “In Ireland we have experienced the persecution of human rights lawyers, up to the state actually colluding in the murder of Pat Finucane for no other reason than that he was doing his job and providing a legal defence for republicans.“In China the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but when activists have relied on this defence, their lawyers have been targeted and arrested. It is vital that China ensures the right of human rights lawyers to defend their clients free from harassment and persecution.”

During the delegation’s visit to China, MEPs also met with Chinese human rights lawyers who provided more information on the crackdown this year which has led to the arrests of hundreds of lawyers engaged in the defence of Uighurs from Xinjiang, Hong Kong student protestors, feminists and other activists. Ms Anderson said: “We heard that more than 300 human rights lawyers have been arrested and detained this year. State media has carried out a coordinated campaign to attempt to destroy the reputations of those who have been arrested. Ten members of the concern group established to raise awareness and report on the persecution of lawyers have themselves been arrested and detained.“Most concerning of all is the fact that more than 30 lawyers, or members of their families, have disappeared and remain missing. The authorities say they are detained but if that is the case, they have no contact with their families or lawyers, and no-one knows where they are being held.“

The Chinese authorities must address this abuse as an urgent priority. As a first step, the families of those who have disappeared need to be assured that their loved ones will not be tortured or abused, and informed of their whereabouts. Detainees must be given the right to receive family visits and see their lawyers in their sites of detention.“I intend to raise this issue, together with colleagues from other political groups, in the European Parliament.”

“Last night I spoke in the European Parliament about the alleged dirty hand practises regarding the NAMA sale. There is a paper trail showing that Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness wasn’t kept in the loop. We need to know who got the money and what for. Sinn Féin will continue to support investigations into alleged misuse of public funds.”

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson is set to speak at a public meeting in Craigavon tonight on opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Speaking ahead of a public meeting in Craigavon, Ms Anderson said;

“The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is one of the largest and most controversial pieces of legislation to ever come through the European Parliament.

“It would undermine democracy by allowing major international companies to ride roughshod over the democratic decision of the EU.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to address a meeting of the Craigavon and District Council of Trade Unions alongside Rev Chris Hudson to discuss our opposition to TTIP.

“This legislation is causing anger across Europe as more and more people realise how far reaching the implications of TTIP could be.

“In recent days we saw tens of thousands of people taking to the streets of Berlin to protest against this unfair legislation.

“Sinn Féin have been to the fore of the campaign against TTIP in Europe and we will continue to oppose any moves which threaten workers rights, agriculture, food safety and potentially people’s health.”