Seanad debates

Friday, 19 February 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Qualifications Recognition

10:30 am

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach Gníomhach agus leis an Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile as an ábhar tábhachtach seo a ardú ag tús imeachtaí an tSeanaid.

North-South co-operation, as we all agree, is an integral part of the Good Friday Agreement and a priority for the Government. It is protected under the protocol on Ireland-Northern Ireland. The protocol’s recognition of the role of North-South co-operation is important. It is also a recognition of the importance of strand two of the Good Friday Agreement and of the way lives are led and business is conducted on the island of Ireland. The mapping exercise of North-South co-operation undertaken by the UK and EU provided valuable information on its breadth and depth. It confirmed that many areas have either expressly relied upon or been significantly enabled by the overarching EU legal and policy framework.

The context for North-South co-operation has unfortunately now changed. We will continue to work hard to find new ways of working in the areas where the underlying EU law no longer applies in Northern Ireland. The recognition of professional qualifications is one of a number of cross-cutting issues that impact on North-South co-operation. Unfortunately, it has been affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, as the Senator acknowledged, and is also important in the context of the common travel area. The Government is fully committed to the CTA and remains in close contact with UK authorities to ensure its smooth operation.

As of 1 January 2021, mutual recognition of professional qualifications, as laid down in EU Directive 2013/55/EU, no longer applies with regard to the UK. The recognition of qualifications has formed a key part of the Government’s Brexit preparations, with a view to mitigating the challenges, where possible, and has been led by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. The Department, in collaboration with the British Government, has encouraged regulatory authorities in Ireland, a small number of which operate on an all-island basis, to engage with their UK counterparts to manage the process of continued recognition of UK qualifications in national law in Ireland. Departments, together with their regulators, have confirmed that in the majority of cases arrangements are in place to ensure continued recognition of professional qualifications. Individuals who have already had their qualifications recognised by the relevant EU regulator before the end of the transition period will experience no change and can continue to practise in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU.Those who attain their qualifications after the end of the transition period will need to take the necessary steps to get their qualifications recognised in the other jurisdiction, as per the agreed regulator-to-regulator approach.

We recommend that anyone with a question about the process should contact the regulator. There certainly are a small number of sectors in respect of which further work is required or where primary EU law regarding certain regulated professions requires establishment or residence in the EU member state. The EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement also foresees a mechanism whereby the EU and the UK may later agree, on a case-by-case basis and for specific professions, on additional arrangements for the mutual recognition of certain professional qualifications. We look forward to and will work towards further progress on this important work.


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