Seanad debates

Thursday, 20 December 2018

11:40 am

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I want to wish everyone a happy Christmas and new year. The festive season is often a time when those who live and work abroad come home for visits. I am hearing from families that they wish these visits could become permanent. These families are worried about the barriers that seem to exist for those returning emigrants. While industry and many business sectors are crying out about a serious skills shortage, those abroad see fairs in foreign countries which offer free flights home so that they can take up work in Ireland. There are cars parked on the edge of motorways across the country while people travel to the capital to work because there are few opportunities locally. On the early morning Carlow to Dublin train, people are standing. Further stops in Kildare mean that many have standing room only all the way. We do not have infrastructure that would entice people to come home. We need these people to come home. We need their talents, their experience and their energy. While we are very good at rolling out the red carpet for tourists, I would welcome a debate on what we will do for our own people to bring them home, not just for Christmas but for good.

I read last week that Irish people returning home for Christmas have been warned to photograph their rental vehicles and scrutinise the terms and conditions of insurance cover because many were being charged for damage that was not caused by them, while others complained that basic items were not covered by the insurance on offer. The situation in the UK means that we face uncertain times, and it is hard to know what 2019 will hold. While I welcome the recent legislation introduced, which means drivers returning to or entering Ireland with a full but non-exchangeable driver licence will be able to take driver tests after six instead of 12 EDT lessons, we need legislation to make getting a mortgage easier by allowing earnings abroad to be used as testimony of good credit, by introducing fairness for renters by allowing a good record of rent paid abroad to count, and by streamlining pension entitlements, among many other changes.

This is the Christmas season, the season of goodwill. We also must address the issue of shopping locally. Shopping locally and supporting our communities is so important. It is important to keep our towns and villages alive. Rural Ireland has been massively affected by the recession, so I am asking everyone to shop local, support their own communities and to have a really good and happy Christmas and new year.


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