Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Northern Ireland Employment Act.


asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the British Government has succeeded in its negotiations with the EEC in obtaining a protocol which allows for the continuation of the existing system of work permits in the six north eastern counties which citizens of the Irish Republic are obliged to observe; and if in his negotiations with the EEC he has demanded or will demand the free movement of labour within the whole of the 32 counties.

The Deputy presumably has in mind the Safeguarding of Employment (Northern Ireland) Act, 1947.

As I have already informed the Dáil, Britain has accepted in the negotiations that this Act must be abolished in the enlarged Community. A transitional period of five years has been agreed with the Community for this purpose.

To what extent have the Irish Government in their negotiations with the Community made it explicit that we do not accept that there should be such an arrangement between the British Government and the Community?

We put this point very strongly indeed. The review provision proposed by the British Government was successfully rejected on our representations. We have also protected the positionvis-á-vis workers coming into our jurisdiction.

Did the British Government say whether they had obtained representations from the Stormont authorities on this point?

That has no relevance in this matter.

May I ask if, in fact, it is true that the Irish Government began to raise this issue following the agreement between the British Government and the Community? There seems to be a peculiar sluggishness in terms of the Government's repudiation of this discrimination against citizens from the Republic. In fact, it should still be a major issue in the negotiations at Community level.

The fact of the matter is that the Community have accepted our case that this discriminatory practice must cease. There is an interim period of five years before it actually ceases. This is in accordance with a similar provision which we have succeeded in obtaining in regard to workers coming from abroad into our jurisdiction. Furthermore, a review provision which the British delegation sought was rejected by the Community on our representations.

Did I understand the Minister to say that the Northern Ireland Government had no say in this matter?

This is a matter between the two sovereign Governments.

The British Government on their own initiative asked for this.

I was concerned to emphasise that in any negotiations with the EEC the two Governments that negotiated were the two sovereign Governments—our Government and the British Government.

The British Government were responsible for this.

I would not say that.