Other News In Brief

SF Calls For Urgent Meeting Of North-South Ministerial Council

Sinn Féin President and Vice President have met with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin to call for an urgent meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council.

Speaking following the meeting, party President, Mary Lou McDonald, said: "I met with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin, along with Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O'Neill, this evening.

"We discussed recent political developments in the north, including the restoration of the Executive and the need for the newly restored institutions to deliver for all communities.

"We discussed the importance of a cross-border approach to infrastructure investment by the government to assist in driving the all-Ireland economy.

"Now that the Assembly, and Executive are restored we must also ensure that the North-South Ministerial Council is functioning again soon, as a vital institution of the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin Vice President and NI First Minister, Michelle O'Neill added: "This evening I met with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in Dublin, along with Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald. I outlined my commitment to delivering for all communities as a First Minister For All, including resolving the public sector disputes and addressing key issues such as childcare, special educational needs supports to help workers and families.

"We outlined the need to take a cross-border approach to key infrastructure projects on the island. This must include delivering on the A5 major road scheme, Casement Park and Narrow Water Bridge.

"I also outlined the importance of the North-South Ministerial Council meeting without delay. By working together, we can deliver for all communities and unlock the potential of our economy and infrastructure."

Greens Call For Cross-Departmental Body For Lough Neagh Action

The Green Party has welcomed an Assembly debate on the ongoing crisis at Lough Neagh, but highlighted the urgent need for a cross-departmental body to begin to tackle the issues.

Green Party Councillor Brian Smyth said:We are concerned that there is no clear call for it to be acquired into public ownership, with the communities around it, very much at the heart of the process in the motion. Mere words during speeches are not enough or acceptable at this critical stage in the overall health of Lough Neagh.
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"Lough Neagh is Northern Ireland's most strategic asset in terms of recreation, sustainable fisheries, public water supply and its global biodiversity value. Therefore, it cannot be allowed to fall victim to a public and private carve up, with only a small number of people with vested interests making the decisions. There also needs to be a rights of nature approach, the Lough should have the same rights as any human or corporation. If Lough Neagh is allowed to wither away and die, then so will some of our communities in Northern Ireland.

"The Green Party supports the establishment of an Independent Environmental Agency, as well as a new research facility to monitor water quality and biodiversity in the Lough. It must also be stated that the Going for Growth Strategy for agriculture, which was signed off in 2015 by the Executive Parties has been a disaster. Northern Ireland now has a completely unsustainable agrifood and land use system. Motions are meaningless unless the Executive is willing and able to grapple with this fact and reverse our trajectory towards full climate and ecological breakdown."

DUP Calls For Increase In Progress On Cervical Smear Review

The DUP has called for an increase in the progress being made in the review of cervical smears within the Southern Trust area.

Upper Bann MLA Diane Dodds made the call during a debate in the Assembly on a Women's Health Strategy.

The DUP MLA said: "It is important that we have a strategy focusing on women's health, and particularly one that is joined-up and specific. Amongst the areas needing action are the review of cervical smears in the Southern Trust area.

"Smears from the period of January 2008 until October 2021 17,000 women have had letters telling them they are part of the review and that it might require further action. That has caused obvious stress and worry, and whilst the Trust has offered fantastic support, there remains a need to speed up this process.

"To date only around 1,700 slides have been reviewed and just over 1,000 letters issued. That leaves a very significant backlog which must be reduced as quickly as possible. It was welcomed to hear confirmation from the Minister that plans have been developed to address this review and I look forward to seeing this implemented.

"Even with that action there remain outstanding issues, including a low uptake of appointments in relation to the cervical screening. The national performance level for that is 90% but the Southern Trust has adopted a lower performance level. There must be reassurance from the Department that this will be reviewed and performance of this vital area is kept at an appropriate level."

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