Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

British-Irish Co-operation

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

257. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress that was made at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on the New Decade, New Approach agreement’s outstanding commitments and the significant implications for freedom movement of non-Irish and non-British persons on the island of Ireland as a result of the UK nationality and borders Bill. [17221/22]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) agreement was a significant shared achievement by the parties in Northern Ireland together with the two Governments, and its full implementation and the fulfilment of our own commitments made alongside the agreement, are key priorities for the Irish Government. While the implementation of the NDNA agreement was raised at the BIIGC, due to time constraints, there was not a detailed discussion of both Governments’ respective commitments.

I was disappointed to hear the Secretary of State’s announcement, on Monday, that he would not bring forward the language legislation before the Assembly election on 5 May. The package of language and identity legislation agreed in New Decade New Approach was detailed and balanced and should be implemented – as should all the commitments in NDNA. This would have been better done in the Assembly as intended but there is no reason for further delay or deadlock over the positive measures agreed in support of linguistic diversity and cultural expression in Northern Ireland. It should be advanced on the basis of the legislative provisions negotiated, agreed and published at the time of NDNA.

This Government has made significant progress to fulfilling its commitments agreed to at the time of the NDNA agreement with regards to support for the Irish language in Northern Ireland. This includes the allocation of: €1.2m per annum for 2021-2023 for Irish language broadcasting; €1.2m over three years (2020-22) to support the Irish language in Northern Ireland; and an All Island expansion of the existing Irish Language Network strategy.

Furthermore, the commitments made at the time of the NDNA agreement, which focussed on working with the Executive through the NSMC to deliver projects that benefit people across the island, including greater connectivity between North and South; investing in the North West region and in border communities; supporting the Irish language in Northern Ireland; and supporting reconciliation as an integral part of the Peace Process, are reflected in the Programme for Government. They are therefore at the heart of the Government’s approach to Northern Ireland.

With regard to the UK’s Nationality and Borders Bill, the Government has been engaging with the British Government at both official and political level to make clear our concerns with regard to the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme set out in the Bill, which is currently progressing through the British Parliament. As currently drafted, the Bill would provide that the UK’s immigration rules may require that non-Irish and non-British citizens obtain an ETA before travelling to the UK, including for journeys across the land border with Northern Ireland.

The implementation of such a scheme would have implications for daily lives and livelihoods on this island, with potential implications for cross-border healthcare, tourism, education, and integrated supply chains. Tens of thousands of people cross the border every day in the course of their daily lives, including to access essential services, for business, and for family reasons. It is a uniquely shared space. This is something which the Irish and British Governments recognised and committed to supporting in Strand 2 of the Good Friday Agreement. I raised these concerns with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Minister of State for Northern Ireland at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in Dublin. During our meeting, I expressed the Government’s serious concerns with regard to the draft Bill’s ETA provisions as they relate to cross border travel.

We will continue to engage on the issue and emphasise to the British Government our serious concerns, with a view to finding a satisfactory resolution that addresses them.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.