Seanad debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

10:30 am

Photo of Niall Ó DonnghaileNiall Ó Donnghaile (Sinn Fein)

I want to reflect on some of the statistics released today from last year's census in the North. There is a substantial amount of detail to get through. No doubt I will reflect on some of it in the coming weeks. No one can deny the significant symbolism of the details released today. It also shows that we are living in a changed and changing society. In the first instance this tells us in a very obvious and stark way that we need to prepare for further change. We need to do so in an inclusive, positive and progressive way. For a long time in the House, I have advocated in respect of the need for a citizens' assembly that would act as a home for this discussion and the preparation and planning necessary for change. There is a lot of detail to get through. I do not presume to know it all or, indeed, to know what all of what the detail tells us. I appreciate the historic symbolism of what we are finding out today, however.

What we can deal with is the practical issue of a 63.5% increase in Irish passport holders in the North of Ireland since the census in 2011. Last year, for the first time, there were more applications for Irish passports in the North than there were for British passports. I do not say this to presume anyone's particular allegiance or view on the constitutional question. I merely make the point to highlight a practical issue that warrants a response. We all know the issues nationwide and not only in the North with the passport service last year. We know of the delays, problems and difficulties in communication. This morning's figures of a 63.5% increase and more than 500,000 people holding an Irish passport are welcome. I hope there is more of it. A passport is an important document and we all appreciate this. People need to have a service to interface with directly. They deserve and are entitled to a proper modern and accessible service with which they can interact and engage when needed. This is another reminder. I hope we soon get an opportunity to debate the cross-party motion calling for a passport office in the North. I take this opportunity to make the call of the Irish Government once again. If it ever needed a reason, cause or, dare I say it, a justification, although one of those should not be necessary, it is the figure jumping out at us today.

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