Wednesday, 9 October 2019
Health and Childcare Support (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2019: Committee and Remaining Stages
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 8, line 18, after " "(iva)" to insert the following:"an Irish citizen who is ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland, a British citizen who is ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland, and".
Senator Higgins asked if I could speak on her behalf about her amendments.
Both of these amendments pertain to the Childcare Support Act 2018, which was alluded to by the Minister. The Bill provides for British citizens to access the national childcare scheme on the same basis as Irish citizens and assesses British citizens in the same manner as the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004, which states that a British citizen means a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Does the insertion of British citizen here not then immediately presuppose that Irish citizens in the North are British citizens to be assessed in that manner after Brexit for the purposes of this Bill? I do not know if the Minister of State is aware of the Emma DeSouza case, which concerns whether citizenship differs. She is a British citizen even though she claims to be Irish. She is a British citizen because it is Irish identity that she has the right to claim. She has gone to Europe. I think she is there today. The ruling has not yet been made but it looks like it could push it, which is not in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, but then Great Britain is in so much turmoil that it does not seem as though it has common sense at the moment. Could the Bill not differentiate between British citizens, Irish citizens ordinarily resident in the North, and British citizens ordinarily resident in the North? Obviously, the Constitution states that it is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation and that is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Can this not be provided for in this Bill in this manner? I have submitted the amendments to discuss this matter further. I do not intend to press them to a vote today, but depending on the answer, we will possibly be resubmitting them when the Bill comes before the Oireachtas Select Committee on Health.
Section 7 of the Childcare Support Act 2018 provides for the persons who are eligible to apply for financial support under the national childcare scheme. The Government, through this Bill, is amending section 7 to ensure that all British citizens, whether resident in Northern Ireland or elsewhere, will retain the same right as Irish citizens to apply for the national childcare scheme. Section 7(1)(b)(iv) provides that persons who are nationals of a member state of the EU are eligible to apply for financial support under the scheme. Irish citizens ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland are already covered in section 7 and there is no need to refer specifically to Irish citizens ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland in section 7 as they will continue to be nationals of an EU member state after Brexit. British citizens who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland are captured by the amendment proposed at section 10 of the Bill. This is because British citizens, regardless of their ordinary residence, will be eligible to apply for the scheme. There is, therefore, no need to refer specifically to British citizens ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland in section 7.
On amendment No. 8, section 15 of the Childcare Support Act 2018 provides that financial support under the national childcare scheme shall not be paid unless the person satisfies the eligibility criteria. The eligibility criteria includes a reference to a person who is a national of a member state of the EU. Irish citizens who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland will continue to be nationals of a member state of the EU after Brexit and the proposed amendment referring to "Irish citizens ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland" is not, therefore, necessary. British citizens who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland are captured by the amendment proposed at section 10 of the Bill as they are British citizens, regardless of their ordinary residence. In terms of a consequential amendment to section 15 arising from the amendment made to section 7, there is no need to refer specifically to British citizens ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland. I do not, therefore, propose to accept the amendments proposed to sections 7 and 15 of the Childcare Support Act 2018 but I hope that this explanation reassures the Senator with regard to the eligibility of persons living in Northern Ireland.