Before the debate was adjourned I referred to the strong feelings in County Donegal about the lack of progress in this matter since this time last year. I stress the human aspect. Places like Inishowen have not benefited from the economic boom or the Celtic tiger. When jobs are not being created in their areas people must take up employment in Derry which is the natural hinterland to parts of County Donegal.I do not understand why these people should be penalised for securing employment for themselves.Even if they were able to secure similar employment in County Donegal or other Border counties the wages would be much lower. People are moving out of these areas. As I said on Committee Stage last week, I know of two families who have moved away. They were not employed in the area, so the loss is not felt in that respect, but their children went to the local schools and they bought their groceries in the local shops. When a family moves away from an area it can result in the loss of a teacher in the local school, particularly in small rural areas such as the one from which I come. Two or three children leaving a school could result in the loss of a teacher in subsequent years. Services generally are declining in certain areas as a result of people moving away. We do not want that situation further exacerbated by this problem.
The Minister stated earlier that the movement of people out of rural areas and into towns was a national trend. That is not the case in areas such as the constituency I represent. People enjoy living in these areas. They have many natural amenities which people will be aware of if they visited our area during the by-election. Unfortunately, work is not available and people will move away to find it. They are now being penalised for doing that.
If we addressed this problem through these amendments, we would also address the wider human issue. Teachers would be kept on in schools in rural areas, shops would remain open and services would continue to be available. People want to work. This problem must be urgently addressed. We do not want to see further anomalies. There is little point in resolving one problem if we are creating another. Nor do we want to penalise people because of where they live and because they want to work. That has repercussions for everybody in these areas. An equitable tax system would solve many of the existing problems.
I ask the Minister to clarify the position in regard to Article 18. If a group of people were previously covered by that bilateral agreement, how can they no longer be covered if a change has not been made to it? I realise there was a change in their status as far as Northern Ireland was concerned, particularly in regard to teachers, health care workers, civil servants, etc., but if they were previously covered by a bilateral agreement, can that be changed without being changed on both sides? People are waiting for clarification on this matter. If people were previously covered by Article 18, they should continue to be covered because there has not been any update in that bilateral agreement. Any decision we reach today or at any other time would have to be ratified by both Governments.
Issues like this annoy the people in the area I represent. They want to see progress being made. I acknowledge the levies were changed last year and that a special case was made for cross-Border workers. That provides us with an opportunity to examine these amendments and address this problem. If we resolve it we will be helping many other people in terms of the economic benefits that will arise. If we do not resolve it, however, areas will be depopulated. I do not want to engage in scaremongering but if a number of families leave an area every week, it will have major implications down the line. I support the amendments.