Dáil debates

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


12:20 pm

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

On the points the Deputy makes in respect of undocumented Irish, I am sure that is an issue that will be raised by the Taoiseach with the President of the United States tomorrow. It has been raised every year for a number of years. We have been looking for legislative vehicles that could allow that to happen in a way that would protect Irish people in the United States who are undocumented. It is not easy in the current political environment on migration on Capitol Hill, which has led to a very divisive debate between the two parties there. We are very close to securing agreement on an E3 visa facilitation for Ireland by which unused visas arising from a legal arrangement and relationship between the US and Australia would be used. That measure would have passed if one Senator had not decided to block it. We want to continue to try to find a way of getting that done. That work for Irish America and Irish people in America continues and would also facilitate a new generation of young Irish people who want to be part of the US story to do that in the future in a way that is legal, controlled and managed.

In respect of regularising workers who are undocumented here, we have had a conversation on this matter in Cabinet. This is not an easy thing to get right. It is particularly difficult in the context of agreements and debates that have been had across the European Union where we are trying to get consistency in terms of how we deal with undocumented individuals, asylum seekers and so on. It has to be viewed in that context, rather than Ireland doing its own thing entirely. Having said that, we need to try to be consistent in terms of what we are asking for Irish citizens abroad and the way we treat foreign nationals here in Ireland. We also have to be consistent in terms of how we treat families so that we do not create conditions whereby parents are being asked to leave the country, while their children, in theory, are being allowed to stay and, in doing so, breaking up or separating families. These are not easy issues to resolve, but I take the point the Deputy is making. I reassure him that the Cabinet has had discussions on them in recent months.


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