I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this Topical Issue and the Minister of State, Deputy Creighton, for dealing with it. I wish to highlight the fact that so many young people are emigrating to various parts of the world. The USA is one such opportunity available to our people. US Senator Charles Schumer previously wrote legislation for the diversity visa programme while a member of the House of Representatives. He thus created the Schumer visa which was distributed to 50,000 people from countries with low rates of emigration to America. This bill is the first in 15 years - when the Morrisson and Donnelly visa lottery programmes were cut - that focuses exclusively on Irish emigration to America. There is not a town or village in our country that has not lost young people to emigration in recent years. They are going to Australia, Canada, the USA, England and elsewhere. I would like to see the Government working closely with the people in America who are trying to introduce these visas. For young people tavelling from Ireland to America, having a working visa, whereby they can work for two years or have that period extended, is of vital importance. It allows them to find bona fide work, be above board, have proper health cover and be covered if they have an accident or something unfortunate happens to them. It takes them out of the black economy and ensures them the freedom to avail of different employment opportunities that might arise. A person working illegally in the United States is restricted in what he or she can do.
I acknowledge the Taoiseach's recent trip to America which was good for the country. He portrayed the country in a good light and sent a good message to America, which is to be welcomed.
I have raised the issue of visas on previous occasions. I appreciate that a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has said the Government is working with Irish American community activists and the embassy and consulates in the United States to advance the prospects of the Bill. This is vitally important. I ask the Minister of State to ensure the Government operates in a proactive way on this issue. It would be most welcome if 10,500 visas, or possibly more, became available in time.
We do not want to see our young people having to go, but there is nothing worse than seeing young people between the ages of 18 and 22 years unemployed. They will never get these years back. It is vital that they use their time productively. As long as there is no work available here, we want to see them getting on. We want to see them safe and happy and in work. It is in everyone's instinct to work and be productive every day.
I am relying on the Minister of State to work with her counterparts in America to ensure this work can come to fruition in order that we can offer the hope to many young people that they will be able to work in a safe and secure environment and be above board.