I would like to welcome the Minister, Deputy Coveney, to the House.
Northern Ireland: Motion
That Seanad Éireann:
- upholds the Good Friday Agreement, in all its parts, and calls for its full implementation;
- condemns the vote in the British House of Commons to reject the House of Lords Amendment 40 to the ‘Nationality and Borders Bill’; this decision will
see the imposition of an ‘electronic travel waiver’ for non-Irish and non-British citizens travelling from the South into the North of Ireland;
- notes the total absence of information regarding the imposition of this unnecessary and punitive measure or how it will be enforced;
- expresses our deep concern at the impact this ‘electronic border’ will have on families and communities who live along the border, in particular, and on workers, students, families, tourists and visitors to Ireland;
- calls on the Irish Government to mobilise its international and diplomatic influence to oppose this decision and call for its urgent reversal; and
- reaffirms our opposition to a hard border, of any kind, in Ireland.
I am sharing time with my colleague, Senator Boylan. I will take ten minutes and she will take six.
I thank the Minister for being here tonight for the motion. I think it signals the seriousness of the subject matter we are discussing and, indeed, his interest in it. I also welcome Luna Lara Liboni and Grace Tierney from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, who are in the Visitors Gallery.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank colleagues from across the House for their support for tonight’s Private Members' business. I know all Members share the same deep concerns that I and many others have about the implications of the British Government’s Nationality and Borders Act on life in Ireland. A very important public message we are sending to the British Government tonight is that this Chamber will be united and implacably opposed to this regressive and harmful legislation. This shows the scale of opposition to the Nationality and Borders Act here.
This Act will fundamentally damage the Good Friday Agreement, the economy of this country, South and North, and directly effect the lives of countless workers, families, students, healthcare professionals and people availing of healthcare, who at the moment move freely South to North and North to South on a daily basis to work and live their lives. A refugee child or someone from outside Britain or Ireland who has made this place their home and plays for their local GAA club has to apply for a waiver if they want go up North to play a match, take part in a cúl camp or watch a championship game. That is a level to which this legislation can negatively permeate throughout the lives of our communities.
It will potentially disrupt trade, tourism, education, healthcare and day-to-day life, especially for communities along the Border. The broader motivations and intentions behind its Act are repugnant, anti-refugee and run contrary to any kind of progressive, inclusive and positive politics, which my colleagues and I, and I believe a majority of people in Ireland, would aspire to.
This Act is rooted in the British Government’s Brexit decision. It is a decision that caused chaos among the people of Britain and continues to cause serious collateral damage to the people of Ireland up to this day. We have only to look at the refusal of the Democratic Unionist Party, DUP, to form an Executive in the North because of its attitude to the protocol, itself a consequence of Brexit, and a necessary consequence to protect the economies of this country and the EU. The people of Ireland are being punished by the Nationality and Borders Act and the DUP's approach to the agreed protocol, both products of the decisions by the British Government.
One of the few but very important successes of our collective opposition to Brexit was to ensure there would be no hardening of Britain's border in Ireland. That was achieved because the Irish Government and the majority of parties in the North's Executive were opposed to such a border. Crucially, that opposition had the support of President Joe Biden’s administration and EU member states. The decision was not to have a hard border. It was not conditional; it was unconditional. There was to be no border of any kind - physical or electronic. Now, on foot of the Nationality and Borders Act, which has been passed by Westminster, we are facing a hard border for some. However, it will very quickly become, because of its broader ramifications, a hard border for each and every one of us.
We are facing the imposition of an electronic waiver for non-Irish and non-British citizens travelling throughout this country. It will affect tourists from all over the world, especially those many tourists who visit us from North America. In practice, this Act could require President Joe Biden, should he choose to lead a delegation on a visit to Ireland, which will be for many their ancestral and much loved family home place, to have an electronic waiver to travel North. How absurd and offensive is that? Let us consider someone such as Congressman Richard Neal, for example, a proud Irish American who we hope will address the Seanad later this month and who has been absolutely steadfast and abundantly clear in his opposition to any hardening of the border and the consequences such move would have. Are we seriously telling someone like Richard Neal, who travelled here throughout 1980s when the conflict was at its height, that he will now, in 2022, need a waiver to move from one part of Ireland to another? How do we think that will go down? How did the British Government think that will go down?
This will also the rest of us who live here. We may be related to those who travel daily across the Border or who are visiting here as tourists or as our families. The peace process brought with it many benefits, in particular the right to freedom of movement unhindered across this country. The British Act that we are debating tonight effectively ends that freedom of movement for non-Irish and non-British citizens. In that regard, it is a direct assault on the Good Friday Agreement, the peace process and the political processes and institutions that emerged from it. Quite frankly, it is total madness.
As Members here will know well, I am of the view that there should be no border in Ireland. The sooner we get rid of it the better for us all - nationalist, unionist and everyone else. The imposition of this electronic border serves the interests only of the British Government. Its imposition reflects that government's indifference to and, indeed, disregard for the needs of the people of Ireland, our peace and political processes and our economy. It is ushering in a hierarchy of rights where the British Government - not the Irish Government, the North's Executive or the people who live here - is the arbiter and decision-maker of how we will live our lives, how people who come here for a better way of life live their lives and how visitors from all over the world relax and enjoy Ireland's famous and world-renowned hospitality.
I am sure that much like the Minister, I often wish someone, somewhere, in the British Government and its parliament would actually read the Good Friday Agreement, GFA. Tourism Ireland is a cross-Border body set up under the auspices of the GFA. It does a world-class job in promoting Ireland internationally. It promotes Ireland, as the Minister and colleagues will know, as a single tourist destination and as one unit, where people can visit Kilmainham Gaol and the Guinness Storehouse on Monday and the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry on Tuesday, before finally making their way to the James Connolly Visitor Centre, Titanic Belfast, the "Game of Thrones" exhibition, the Museum of Free Derry and the Somme Heritage Centre on another day and enjoy them unhindered, uninterrupted and unimpeded, as it should be.
The Act we are debating undermines all of that and significantly and flagrantly disrupts the positive and transformative work of a GFA body, namely, Tourism Ireland. Today the North's tourism alliance provided a detailed assessment of the damage the Act will do to the tourism industry. The assessment said the Act be "hugely detrimental to tourism on ... [this] island". The report identified that of those who will have to apply for a waiver and pay for the privilege, some 60% spend nights in the North and the South and 13% spend one night in the North. The tourism industry was not consulted at any stage in the legislation process for this Act, despite being key stakeholders. It is typical.
In all of this, we need to remember that the tourism industry is on its knees as a result of the pandemic. It cannot take the unwanted imposition of this so-called waiver. Tourism Ireland's research has continuously confirmed that hassle and expense are key deterrents for travellers when choosing their holiday destination and, therefore, consumer perception on ease of travel is paramount. In addition, should the electronic travel authorisation, ETA, be implemented in its current format, EU nationals who arrive in the South using an EU ID will not be able to enter the North as a passport is a prerequisite for the ETA. This will be an additional cost should they decide to visit Ireland. The report also estimates that £130 million is at risk from the imposition of the ETA for people who live in the South and who are not Irish residents, but are legally resident due to EU membership, should they wish to travel north.
On an industry-wide level, Tourism Ireland estimates the introduction and associated ETA costs could be £160 million and affect more than 500,000 visitors. Derry, in particular, because of its Border proximity could be hit hard. Key visitor attractions could also be hit. It is obvious on any sensible rule of thumb that this Act should not have become law, should not be implemented and that the Irish Government should use its high standing and status in the international community to mobilise international opinion to convince the British Government to bin it.
I thank the Minister's officials through him, especially in the Irish embassy in London, who have worked tirelessly to highlight the implications of this Act. I am deeply sorry that they and many of the rest of us have once again been ignored by the British system and its insular agenda in pursuing the Nationality and Borders Act. I hope, as the motion calls on him to do, that the Minister will lead strongly in mobilising international pressure and opposition to ensure that Ireland and our people, workers, students, communities and valued visitors are all protected from the potential impact of this British Government legislation.
I am delighted to second the Private Members' motion on behalf the Sinn Féin group. The rationale for Sinn Féin bringing this PMB has been outlined by Senator Ó Donnghaile. The island of Ireland is once again an afterthought in the minds of the right-wing, anti-immigration Tory Party. Brexit was driven by anti-immigration, little Englander politics and the people of the North and the impact it would have on the Good Friday Agreement were not given a second thought. The people living in the Six Counties overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU but their democratic wishes were ignored. Now, the Nationality and Borders Act will effectively mean an end to freedom of movement. There is not a single person living on this island who will benefit from an electronic border.
Tonight we have an opportunity to send a loud, strong and united message to Westminster that we will not accept it, just as we did on the reimposition of a hard border on this island post Brexit. It was through our collective actions that we ensured that the EU and the US stood solidly with Ireland and made it clear to the British Government that a hard border or any threat to the Good Friday Agreement was a non-runner and would not be tolerated. However, the Nationality and Borders Act will either mean racial and ethnic profiling or a hard border for all. How else does the British Government intend to be able to identify who is Irish or who is a British citizen?
We have heard about some of the impacts such a Act could have on the likes of sports and tourism, but it will also have an impact on non-Irish or British citizens who work for all-Ireland bodies such as Waterways Ireland or Safefood. How will those workers be expected to go about their business? Will they be expected to apply for an ETA? What about a non-Irish student living in County Donegal who wants to go to college on the Magee campus of Ulster University? How much will that student be expected to pay for an electronic waiver?
The implications for the tourism industry as have been outlined are also considerable. Day trips are regularly organised to the Titanic Quarter and the "Game of Thrones" locations. Will they now have to incur an extra cost? We know that tourist agencies will just opt to go to other sights rather than going north at all.
Likewise there could be implications for research. Only a couple of months ago, 62 all-Ireland collaborative research programmes between academics and institutions were announced. Among the projects that were awarded funding was a collaboration between University College Dublin, UCD, and Queens University Belfast to examine the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Will international academics who work in UCD be expected to apply for the electronic waiver?
The reality is that we do not know the answers to these questions because we do not know how much the costs are or how long the waiver will be valid. The ETA is unwanted and the British Government should be told, loud and clear, that it can stick it. The island of Ireland will not tolerate any imposition of a border on the island and will not tolerate a racist, right-wing government in Britain passing laws without an iota of thought or concern for how it will be implemented or will impact on this island.
While much of the focus of this debate will of course rightly focus on the implications of this Act on our island, I express my solidarity with those progressive voices in Britain who are also trying to fight this Act because of the other deeply racist elements that are contained within it such as the two-tier system of refugees, the offshoring of migration and sending refugees to Rwanda. The people of Britain are better than that. They are better than the Tory government. I sincerely hope that those progressive voices in Britain will prevail. Tonight, at least the representatives of Seanad Éireann can speak with one voice to say not here, not on this island.
I thank the Sinn Féin Senators for tabling a motion on the British Government's new Nationality and Borders Act. The Act's provisions for an ETA scheme raise a number of serious concerns and merit further political consideration in the Seanad. The Government will not oppose this motion as it raises concerns that we share, but it does not reflect a number of important developments since it was first tabled that need to be taken into account.
I am pleased to be able to address those issues here with Members today.
I will first discuss the ETA scheme. The British Government's Nationality and Borders Act provides 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 British Government has stated that there will continue to be no immigration checks on the land Border. However, the introduction of an ETA scheme for cross-Border journeys could cause considerable disruption to the lives and livelihoods of many people across the island. This is a matter of serious concern for the Government and I can ensure Members that we have let our views be known in London.
Tens of thousands of people cross the Border every day in the course of their ordinary lives, including to access essential services, for business, for family reasons, or for travel from one part of Ireland to another. It is a uniquely shared space. This is something that both the Irish and British Governments recognised and committed to supporting in strand two of the Good Friday Agreement.
From an early stage, the Government engaged with the British Government at both official and political level to highlight the complexities such an ETA scheme presents in the context of Northern Ireland and the serious implications it would have for daily lives and livelihoods on the island. Late last year and again in January this year, our ambassador in London wrote to the British Home Office outlining our concerns and the significant impacts the proposed scheme would have. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in February and the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, met the Minister, Kevin Foster, later that month in London to address directly the challenges regarding the UK's ETA proposals. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, also wrote to her British counterpart, the British Home Secretary.
At the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference, BIIGC, in March, I raised the ETA proposals once again with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Government has continued to engage closely with the British Home Office and the Northern Ireland Office on the ETA proposals. In statements made on 20 April, the UK Minister for Safe and Legal Migration, Kevin Foster, acknowledged the potential impact of ETA requirements on the day-to-day lives of those who cross the Border on a regular basis and expressed willingness to have a "detailed and constructive" engagement with the Irish Government on this issue. While the UK's draft UK Nationality and Borders Bill received royal assent in the UK and became an Act of Parliament on 28 April, this does not mean that the arrangements for the proposed ETA scheme are finalised as a number of things can be done by way of exemptions through secondary legislation. The Government will continue to engage at both official and political level with our British Government counterparts to encourage the British Government to reconsider its approach and to apply exemptions to their ETA proposals.
The kinds of exemptions on which we are getting traction are that all residents in Ireland would not have to apply for an ETA and would, in other words, benefit from an exemption. That does not, of course, deal with tourists who are visiting or people who are here temporarily who would normally, in many instances, travel into an airport like Dublin, hire a car, travel to Belfast for a day, and go across to Donegal. Movement around the island as a whole is something that many of our visitors just take for granted and this will be a completely unnecessary disruption to that movement.
I believe it will be Northern Ireland that will suffer the most in the context of the impact it will have on all-island tourism, if I can put it that way. We market this island on an all-island basis from a tourism perspective and there are many fascinating reasons to visit Northern Ireland. While people will still continue to visit Northern Ireland, there will be more disruption involved, potentially, in doing that and more cost. If one looks at how the tourism industry works with bookings, travel companies, and so on, a reduction of cost is an issue and that this is going to disadvantage Northern Ireland in a way that is completely unnecessary.
We will continue to work with the British Government to try to win those arguments but the main focus in the short term will be to ensure that people who are resident south of the Border are not required to apply for an ETA and to have that cost and disruption in their day-to-day lives. None of this, to be honest, is good. It is not justifiable from a security point of view but it is, unfortunately, something where sensible amendments were rejected. These were the amendments which came initially from the House of Lords and this Bill is now passed and is an Act. We are now, therefore, relying on secondary legislation but we will work as closely as we can with the British Government to try to get that accommodation.
This is an opportunity for me to update this House on the Northern Ireland institutions and on some of the other issues that are going on. The distinct challenges presented by the ETA to Northern Ireland, underline the importance of Northern Irish voices being heard. This is best done through the devolved institutions in Stormont. Following last week's Assembly elections, we are now in a period of Executive formation. The challenges that we face are too great for Northern Ireland to be left without a strong voice and with a functioning Executive and Assembly. This is what the people of Northern Ireland both expect, deserve and voted for. It is for the parties now to come together to establish an Executive that can deliver for all of the people of Northern Ireland.
Earlier today I met senior figures in Sinn Féin, the UUP, the SDLP, and the Alliance Party. I have also spoken in some detail with Jeffrey Donaldson as leader of the DUP, separately, in a phone call. In each discussion, I emphasised the importance the Irish Government attaches to the quick formation of an Executive. One of the things that I have learned in the context of the politics in Northern Ireland is that things do not get any easier over time.
I want to give my word to the House that whatever challenges we will face in the period ahead, I will continue to work in support of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and in preserving and building upon the successes of the peace process. We have to remind ourselves sometimes here of the success of almost 25 years of an extraordinary peace process on this island that has delivered, by and large, an imperfect peace but, nevertheless, a peace and prosperity on the back of that which many people simply thought was impossible before it was done. Many other countries in the world use what Ireland has achieved as a template to inspire their own political decisions. We have, therefore, a challenge to protect the institutions of that peace agreement from political pressures and disruption, some of which have been linked to Brexit and others which have been linked to other issues. There are landing grounds in respect of the need there is for compromise and policy that can allow us to do that. I will certainly be focusing on that in the days and weeks ahead.
On the issue of legacy, peace in Northern Ireland has been hard won. The Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent implementing agreements require difficult compromises from all sides. These were made on the understanding that all sides would adhere to the agreements reached. In 2014 the political parties, the British Government, and the Irish Government together signed the Stormont House Agreement, which put in place a framework to address the painful legacy of the past. The UUP was the only party in Northern Ireland which did not sign up to that agreement and it gave an explanation as to why. At Westminster, yesterday, the UK Government stated that it will prioritise the introduction of legislation that departs significantly from what we agreed together.
First and foremost, it is important to give a clear and strong message to victims and families, many of whom I know are worried by yesterday's announcements on legacy. I heard that view expressed again today in Belfast. We will continue to work to ensure that the legitimate needs of victims and survivors are at the heart of any legacy process. We have not seen a formal or detailed proposal from the British Government at this stage and so cannot give a comprehensive response at this juncture. Once that has been shared with us, I am sure we will have a detailed and broad range of questions. Beyond those questions, however, there is a broader question of process. As we have consistently said, it is essential that both Governments and the political parties have real and considered discussion on any way forward on this deeply sensitive issue that still impacts many families deeply in Northern Ireland. Victims and families must, crucially, be brought into the consideration of any way forward. Unilateral action is not the way forward and will make matters worse, not better.
On the protocol on Ireland-Northern Ireland, this is the mutually agreed solution to address the challenges faced by Northern Ireland following the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. It is the result of four years of negotiations between the EU and this British Government, which involved compromises on all sides and was designed and agreed to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process. We have consistently sought to engage with the perspectives of everyone in Northern Ireland in regard to the protocol, including those in the unionist community. Again, we had very good discussions today with Doug Beattie and the UUP on the legitimate concerns they have in the context of how the protocol could or should be implemented.
The Vice-President, Mr. Maroš Šefčovič, and the Commission have done likewise and will continue to do so. We have never dismissed genuinely held concerns around the protocol and the Commission made proposals that directly address many of those concerns as late as October last.
It is clear that the protocol is broadly supported by people and businesses in Northern Ireland, with the majority of MLAs recently elected supportive of the protocol. Some 53 of the 90 MLAs who have just been elected, if asked to vote tomorrow, would vote in favour of maintaining the protocol. That is just under 60% support. This corresponds with the clear message that I have heard first hand, including from the business groups I met this afternoon in Belfast. They want the protocol to work and to take advantage of the opportunities it presents. It presents significant economic advantages. We have seen that in the past year. Despite all the political wrangling, uncertainty and instability around the protocol, foreign direct investment and investment more generally in Northern Ireland on the back of the protocol has seen positive growth - the strongest economic growth anywhere in the United Kingdom.
Our message for the British Government is clear. Partnership and consultation are the only credible way forward. Obligations under international agreements must be performed in good faith. This is the very basis of the international legal order. The EU stands ready to talk to the UK at any time and remains fully committed to working jointly with the UK to bring long-term legal certainty and predictability to Northern Ireland. The voices of the people of Northern Ireland need to be heard through their democratically elected representatives on these issues and more. The Government will continue to work to support the implementation of, and the institutions of, the Good Friday Agreement, and all subsequent implementing agreements.
My visit today was the first in a while to Northern Ireland but I suspect I will be travelling across the Border many, many times over the coming weeks and months as we work with all parties as both Governments, and with the European Commission, to find solutions to outstanding problems so that we can support the stability, the predictability and the improved relations that are needed to ensure that the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement can deliver what they were designed to deliver.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire. I thank the Minister for his comprehensive engagement with the Seanad regarding this particular issue, the motion today. I also thank him for outlining to Members of the House the work that he has done, even as of today, on getting the institutions up and running and making sure that the unilateral action by the British Government, which is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements, is challenged not only by him but by the European Union and our friends in the United States of America.
I welcome the Minister to the House. He has had a very busy day already but it is welcome to see him here to discuss this very important issue for our nation.
I would like also to add my congratulations to the Sinn Féin Party on its election results in Northern Ireland, and similarly to the DUP and the Alliance Party which had very successful elections, but also offer commiserations to the UUP and the SDLP which did not have elections that they would have liked. That is how elections go. They have a job at hand. They all have a mandate to deliver an Assembly and to make governance work in Northern Ireland for the people who they are elected to represent. I wish everyone well in that regard.
The Fianna Fáil Party will not be opposing this motion. The Sinn Féin Private Members' motion raises some serious concerns which we as a party share in relation to the provision for an electronic travel authorisation scheme in the UK Government's new Nationality and Borders Act. However, the difficulty I have with the motion is it is somewhat out of date and does not take into account some important recent developments. We will not get into the difficulties. The general theme behind it is right but the wording in parts of it could have been somewhat different.
Those recent developments include engagement on this issue by the Government at both political and official level, by the Minister here who has been working on this for many years, with the Home Office and the Northern Ireland Office. It has not taken into account statements by the Home Office on the matter on 20 April and the fact that the Act received royal assent on 20 April.
Where the Act still provides for the electronic travel authorisation, ETA, provision which would apply to non-Irish and non-British citizens travelling from the South into Northern Ireland, the Irish Government has received positive indications, as the Minister has outlined, from the Home Office through the Minister, Mr. Kevin Foster, that further discussions can take place in the context of developing secondary legislation and possible exemptions. It is critically important that we keep up that pressure that now exists on the authorities to try to create that secondary legislation that will look at dealing with exemptions that will lead with the Irish position.
I am just after leaving our own parliamentary party meeting where the Taoiseach was updating us on how he, too, has had negotiations with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Boris Johnson, even as late as yesterday on this and many other issues. I am pleased that the Government is very much hands-on in relation to the ETA and also issues such as the protocol and the putting together of a new Executive in Northern Ireland. These are critically important issues to ensure proper governance and the day-to-day workings in Northern Ireland.
The Minister mentioned the protocol. It galls me from day to day to hear UK Ministers and Boris Johnson referring to the EU's unwillingness to move on the protocol. The Minister referenced October. Last year one of the big issues was medicines and through the Minister's negotiations, that and other issues have been resolved. Therefore, we must constantly knock the narrative that the EU is not willing to create the conditions of change. It is actually the opposite to what the British Government is saying; it is their unwillingness to engage.
We need proper engagement from the UK Government. We need proper engagement from Boris Johnson's Government. This playing with words must stop. It is not helpful. It is not serving anybody's purpose. We need proper engagement whereby the British Government is willing to come and look at these issues with a view to resolving them but also with an approach where there is give and take. That has not happened heretofore. We are asking and pushing that they do that.
I wish the Minister well in his engagements over the next few weeks where he endeavours to put the Executive together. I hope that Friday is a successful day because it is really important for all of this island that there is a Government working in Northern Ireland. Issues of the day that affect us on a North-South basis can then be dealt with. Whether it be infrastructure, health or whatever, it is really important. I wish the Minister well.
I thank the Sinn Féin team for bringing forward this motion. I support its spirit. I am aware things have moved on.
I thank the Minister for outlining the updates, not only regarding the UK Borders and Nationalities Act but also recent developments around the protocol, the election and legacy.
The imposition of an electronic travel authorisation scheme on non-Irish and non-British citizens entering Northern Ireland across the Border is entirely out of touch with the practicalities and sensitivities of life on this island.
Unfortunately, it reflects a lack of awareness and a willingness to work with us on the practicalities and sensitivities of life on the island. It affects cross-Border workers, education, access to everyday services, essential healthcare, economic drivers such as tourism and of course our integrated supply chains. It brings more questions than answers in terms of the information that we have. It disrupts day-to-day family life. I want to acknowledge the people here who have travelled this evening to hear the motion. Fifty years on since joining the EU, Ireland is home to citizens of all EU countries and beyond. According to the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, NITA, 9% of the population are legally resident but are not Irish or British citizens. This will have a huge impact on those people. We are already dealing with the fallout of Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, leaving the EU; the logistical impact that is having on the movement of goods and the integrity of the Single Market; and the threat of a hard border. Now we are dealing with visa requirements through an electronic authorisation on non-Irish and non-British citizens who need and want to cross the Border just to live their lives or earn their livelihoods. The biggest emotional issue is that it reimposes a border. It imposes barriers where we have had fluidity. It reinforces difference when we have worked so hard to build cohesion. It takes us backwards into the language of the past. The psychological and administrative barrier through this electronic authorisation is incredibly damaging. It undermines all-island projects. For example, the work we do on healthcare is undermined by this, as is tourism and our cross-Border bodies such as Waterways Ireland and Tourism Ireland. I worked in tourism for years, in marketing for Fáilte Ireland, which worked for Tourism Ireland. I know the efforts that go into creating a marketing campaign that targets the entire island. About €1 billion has been spent on doing that. Now this undermines that work.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw how confusing it was to have two sets of guidelines for Covid-19 on the island. People were coming into and out of different airports and wondering what guidelines applied to them. This is another example of more disruption and more difference. It would be very difficult for tourism to operate within that environment, especially coming out of Covid-19 when tourism has taken such a beating. How do we tell people they need authorisation to cross something that is not there and that we have put all our efforts into ensuring that it is not there? I found the NITA briefing very helpful. The £1 billion tourism industry in the North is under threat from this. Questions arise such as whether there will be single-entry or will people require multiple-entry whenever we have 300 crossings; the costs that will be attached; the issues already mentioned in regard to the EU identity card and the fact that a passport is needed for this and all the non-Irish EU nationals working in tourism. We know, and it was said in the brief, that hassle and expense are key deterrents when people choose a holiday destination. Ireland as a whole will be impacted by this, when people are planning trips, never mind their fears about whether there is a threat of prosecution if they are not seen to be co-operating. These are all things that will play on people’s minds. Research by NITA reports that 25% of people from outside the common travel area would see it as a barrier to travelling north. When combined with the home holiday market, with the exception of residents who should be all right, that would be a combined impact of 15%. Derry and the north-west and Donegal would be severely impacted by this. I welcome the exemptions for which the Minister has been working hard. We need to work towards an exemption for tourism as well. I know that NITA has put forward one suggestion that the ETA could be introduced when people are arriving by boat or through the airports but not on the island of Ireland. Those are things to consider. I am aware of everything the Minister has been doing. I want to thank Margaret Ritchie in the House of Lords who put forward the original amendment and of course such people as Stephen Farry, Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna, who are raising this issue in the House of Commons.
I wish to thank Sinn Féin for proposing this motion. In a previous life, I worked on the hard Border in the early 1990s prior to the ceasefires in armed support operations for An Garda Síochána. As a young man from Dublin with no experience of living along the Border, it was immediately apparent to me that any border on this island makes no sense for socioeconomic or cultural reasons and even from a narrow military or security perspective it made no sense. The permanent vehicle checkpoint between Newry and Dundalk was a massive eyesore on the landscape. It had a huge environmental impact and physical presence. Who was going to drive into that checkpoint carrying weapons or ammunition? It was purely a target. It served no purpose whatsoever except to send a political and symbolic message that “You are garrisoned, you are controlled”. This ETA system reminds me of that. It is a virtual border that serves no purpose whatsoever except to inhibit freedom of movement, which is a fundamental right in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It would frustrate economic and cultural activity as set out by the Sinn Féin Senators. We are a country that prides itself on its digital economy and our digital future which requires an international, highly mobile, highly qualified workforce. Everything about this ETA waiver would serve to have a chilling effect on that and on tourism, that is obvious. In fact I would describe it as a self-inflicted injury on the part of the British establishment.
In the mid-2000s as The Irish Times security analyst I was on one of the last British army patrols that came out of Bessbrook Mill and went on patrol along the Border area there. Then Brigadier-General Wayne Harper who accompanied me on that last patrol said to me that the dismantling of the observation post and listening posts along the Border was most welcomed by two groups in south Armagh, namely, Sinn Féin and the British army. One of the most austere and conservative elements of the British establishment saw no value whatsoever in a hard border or any of its physical infrastructure. Similarly, they would be appalled I imagine by the imposition of this virtual or digital border. That raises other questions, such as who would have the burden of enforcing this? Would it be the PSNI? Would it be the UK Border Agency?
Imposing such an administrative burden on them, when they have enough to deal with in trying to promote community policing, would set back the aims of community policing and bring out unfortunate rhetoric and issues around identity that we had hoped belonged in the past. It is a completely retrograde step. Also, I wonder about anybody who accidentally, intentionally or inadvertently might find himself or herself in breach of the ETA. Would that raise a marker, a question or a cause for concern on his or her travel in other jurisdictions? There are all sorts of anticipated and unanticipated outcomes, but this seems to me to be a completely senseless provision.
Again, I thank my Sinn Féin colleagues for proposing the motion. I fully support it as an Independent Senator. I also thank the Minister for all the heavy lifting that will be undertaken in the coming weeks and months, particularly after the extraordinary outcome over the weekend. I congratulate Sinn Féin and all the other parties that experienced gains in their seat numbers.
We have a really challenging task ahead of us. I think it was reported today that it is not yet clear whether the British Government will act in partnership to resolve some of the challenges that lie ahead, but something such as this is emblematic. It is a retrograde step. Let us, therefore, hope we will be able to persuade the British Government to see reason and to move forward in step with us.
The Minister is very welcome to the Chamber. I commend the Sinn Féin team of Senators on having tabled the motion. It will, of course, see full support from the Green Party-An Comhaontas Glas, and I am glad to see that the House is speaking with one voice and that no one will oppose it.
Earlier today I had the pleasure of meeting a delegation which included Dr. Joanne Stuart, OBE, of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance. Its mission statement is "one voice for tourism". I got Dr. Stuart's business card. We are speaking as one voice tonight.
I recently had occasion to visit Northern Ireland to travel to a funeral. The cortège made its short way on foot from Killynoogan, County Fermanagh. The remains were received in Pettigo. I, therefore, walked through the two jurisdictions on foot. It was a stark reminder of how absurd the Border is. It also reminded me of how horrific it was for quality of life when a close-knit community suddenly had to go into a different jurisdiction, in an often hostile policed environment, to shop, to socialise, to work and to worship. It was just incredible.
I congratulate Sinn Féin and others who did well in the election. I am disappointed, obviously, for our two wonderful Green former MLAs, Rachel Woods and Clare Bailey, but hopefully their time will come again. It occurred to me that in the Brexit referendum a majority in Northern Ireland voted against Brexit. As the Minister said, a safe majority of MLAs are against Brexit. Sorcha Eastwood was victorious for the Alliance Party in Lagan Valley. I watched her being interviewed after she was elected and she said the protocol and Brexit came up on two doorsteps in all her canvassing. For the Greens who went up to Northern Ireland to help our fellow party members, it came up on no doorsteps. There is something missing there.
According to Dr. Joanne Stuart, this provision will create financial havoc in the North of this beautiful isle. No one will be immune from being financially burnt by this. Therefore, the people who are proposing this or who are not actively trying to support a lifting of the ETA will include in this dreadful unintended consequence their own people - all people, but including unionists. They are not immune to this. It reminds me that there has to be a better way forward. Northern Ireland is in a unique situation in that it can inhabit three universes: it can have full access to the British market; it can have full access to the EU market - and, of course, due to the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Irish people are entitled to become citizens of Ireland and European citizens; and it has unfettered access to the Republic of Ireland. That is a new Northern Ireland that people have not fully grasped yet, and this would be a retrograde step to introduce to the ETA. It is a Northern Ireland that can have a future spanning a continent and yet not lose its home, but that has not yet become clear to unionism.
It did become abundantly clear to the person whose funeral I attended, namely, the late Canon Pat McHugh, who, in 2017, when his church in Castleblayney had to undergo significant renovations, and when his flock, his congregation, had nowhere to pray, the nearby Church of Ireland rector, Neal Phair, opened up his church to the Catholic congregation. One might think that that is normal, but it was not and is not yet on this island, but he was ahead of his time. There was hope in that regard. For several months there were christenings, funerals and masses for Catholics in the local Church of Ireland. We need more of that togetherness. At one stage, Canon Pat McHugh, in pre-Good Friday Agreement times, had to assert his fundamental civil rights with just cause when the RUC was around. It was heartening at the funeral cortège that a member of the successor to the Royal Ulster Constabulary was directing traffic on the way into the funeral. I approached the officer and said it was good to see him there. The police officer said things were much better now but that we still have a long way to go. He said he lived very close to the late Pat McHugh's family.
I would love to see more of that, but unionism must stand up and change or it will be left behind. It is an important part of the fabric of our history. The future for Northern Ireland is an exciting one. It is encapsulated in how Andrew Trimble, the rugby player, identifies unionism, how Rory McIlroy, perhaps, identifies Northern Ireland, and how Barry McGuigan of yesteryear had an understanding of mutual respect. Let us start with tolerance, but let us move on to embracing and celebrating difference.
That was impeccable timing. Thank you, Senator.
The Chair will thank me for my timing as well because I do not wish to go over what other people have said either. I thank the Sinn Féin Senators for tabling the motion. Yet again we face a situation where our neighbours and their virtue-signalling towards the little Englanders on their own island have impacted our island in ways they cannot understand because they simply do not care. They are imposing on people who live and work here, who love here and who travel over the Border but who may not be citizens of their country. It just shows how they think. They thought the proposal would be okay because they did not include Irish citizens in it, showing a complete lack of understanding of what a 21st century Ireland looks like and how it operates. That imposes a border on the island of Ireland and hinders the free movement of people. Members have spoken about how we market ourselves on an all-island basis when it comes to tourism and how that is important for our economy and our people.
It is also important, as Senator Boylan said, that we think about what the Nationality and Borders Act does and what it is. It is one of the most shameful actions a government has taken, undermining as it does well-established international rights for those who are fleeing war and persecution.
The spin by the British Government to the effect that it is disrupting the business model of smugglers is disgraceful. It was a dark day when the House of Commons passed that legislation. I commend people like Alf Dubs, a hero of mine who fled Czechoslovakia as a young man, arrived on Britain's shores, built a life and became a Member of Parliament. For his whole life, he has advocated on behalf of children in the same situation and child refugees. I commend the work that he and others like him did and the reasonable amendments they submitted to try to block that legislation.
War has returned to Europe's borders. We need a co-ordinated humanitarian response at an EU level and on this island. The UK is the outlier in its response to refugees. The proposal to send refugees to be processed in Rwanda sickens me to my stomach, but that is what the UK and its Government are doing. History will judge them for what they are doing. This will impact on us and on our island, but is designed to target the most vulnerable people at the most vulnerable time of their lives. UK Government members should hang their heads in shame in the context of the UK Nationality and Borders Act 2022.
I wish to share time with my colleague, Senator Warfield.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I welcome our guests and express my appreciation to the Minister for taking the time in this important week to listen to the debate on this motion. It is heartening to see the Seanad united on this issue.
I will reflect on the broader impact of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 before dealing with the Border issue. The Act does five things: it allows, as others have said, asylum seekers to be sent to Rwanda; it allows the British Home Secretary to strip citizens of their citizenship without warning; it allows asylum seekers to be criminalised; it allows people who arrive across the English Channel to be treated more harshly; and it ensures that protections against modern slavery are undermined. I will use a word I have not used in the six years I have been in this House. This is truly wicked legislation. There is no other way to describe it.
I agree with Senator Boylan. I believe the British people are better than this. When I was at the Council of Europe at the migration committee a couple of weeks back, there were British representatives present. They included the peer, Leslie Griffiths, who spoke openly of his horror at the legislation being passed. He was not the only one. It is clear many people were upset about this Act being passed. Unfortunately, there were also overtones of xenophobia from some of the British Conservative members we met during that week at the human rights body.
As to why this legislation was brought forward, I am reminded of a song written in the 1970s called "Nothing but the Same Old Story", in which the songwriter referred to trying to drown out the sound of the crumbling foundations. That is what is happening. The extreme right-wing UK Government is trying to drown out the disaster it has created for itself with Brexit, and its actions are having dreadful consequences for human rights. I did not ever expect to see legislation like this passed in Britain.
On the Border issue, it is the height of economic insanity. I had the pleasure of meeting a group of about 30 students from the Kelley School of Business in Indiana this morning. They were heading up to the North later on. In two years' time, if this Act is implemented, that will not be happening. They will still come to visit us but will not travel to the North. The impact of this on tourism in the North will be cataclysmic. I am glad to hear Tourism Ireland was here today, and it is important that we speak with one voice about this.
It is a trend with the British Conservative Party - and, unfortunately, some unionist colleagues - that, regardless of economic consequences, it seems hell-bent on carrying on to the detriment of everyone's future. Let us talk about some examples. After this legislation becomes law, a taxi driver who brings a family of Americans across the Border and realises that they have not applied for an ETA could be subject to a €2,000 fine for each passenger if stopped by the police for any reason. For someone who lives in Donegal, wants to go shopping in Derry and on the way witnesses a crime, if they talk to the police and their identity is checked, they could face serious consequences if they do not have an ETA. This has not been thought out properly. Will coach tours continue to cross the Border to the Six Counties? It is highly unlikely in many cases.
It is vital that the Irish Government and the EU engage with the British Government to ensure that this legislation is reversed in order that there will be no return to a hard border, electronic or otherwise, for anyone living in Ireland. James Connolly famously said that partition would bring a carnival of reaction, North and South. Unfortunately, 100 years later we are still seeing that carnival bell being rung by the British Tory Government. It is important that all of us unite on this and make a vow across the Chamber to insist that this wicked legislation be dropped.
I welcome the Minister and our guests in the Visitors Gallery. It goes without saying that there can be no electronic border, just as there can be no hard border, on the island. As the Minister said, it is unnecessary, unjustifiable and inconsiderate of our island of workers, families, tourists and students. Thankfully, the Seanad is united in one voice and on the same page. I thank Senator Ó Donnghaile for bringing forward the motion on behalf of the team and I thank all the parties for supporting it. It calls on the Government to mobilise international and diplomatic influence to effect change. Will the Minister address that? Is that happening in terms of the development of secondary legislation or with the legislation? Are we mobilising international opinion?
On the tourism industry, Senator Carrigy was here. We sit on the joint Oireachtas committee on tourism. It will be something for us to look at but for the tourism industry not to even be consulted as a key stakeholder is incredible. Senator Currie mentioned the hassle and expense that will face tourists. For those of us lucky enough to travel abroad during Covid we know about the hassle, bureaucracy and stress associated with the pandemic, necessary as it was. This Nationality and Borders Act fundamentally affects the Good Friday Agreement so it is all the more important that we mount a united challenge, as my colleague has said.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this important issue. The Minister is welcome to the House. As a member of Fianna Fáil, I can say we are proud of our role in the history of the State, especially of our involvement in the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. I again offer my gratitude to former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, for his tireless work on that agreement. At a time of huge personal difficulty and loss for him, he put the peace and prosperity of the island first. I acknowledge the voices of women that were hugely important to that agreement, particularly Liz O'Donnell, Pearl Sagar, Monica McWilliams, Mo Mowlam and all the women who encouraged their men to take the step. I remember being incredibly struck at the site of the Battle of the Boyne in Oldbridge listening to Baroness Eileen Paisley speaking about the importance of peace and of the generations that had been handed the gift of peace to work on. She spoke of the role women played in the background encouraging and supporting those on every side of the political divide to take this step.
We fully support the Good Friday Agreement in its absolute entirety. Since the conclusion of the agreement in 1998, the Irish State, regardless of political leadership, has defended and supported the continuing peace we have seen on the island.
We have seen huge advancements on both sides of the Border, socially, politically and economically. There is no doubt the Good Friday Agreement has played a key role in this regard. All we have to do is go to Belfast and see the prosperity. I was speaking to a lady from Northern Ireland who works for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. She went to Queens University and spoke about the difference she sees now. It is a completely different city. The agreement is not perfect but it is the best we have. It is all we have. We have to make sure it works for all of the people of the island of Ireland.
I take this opportunity to congratulate all of the MLAs elected to Stormont last week. I was disappointed that good, strong leaders such as Nichola Mallon and Clare Bailey were not re-elected, but these are the vagaries of politics. I acknowledge the achievements of Sinn Féin in the election and I wish it well. We may not be cut from the same cloth but as a proud republican I am pleased to see a nationalist majority elected to the assembly. As chair of the Oireachtas women's caucus and a steadfast advocate of increased female participation in politics, I congratulate Northern Ireland's next First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, on her historic election. I also congratulate Naomi Long and the Alliance Party. What it achieved was incredible. It shows that there is a need and desire for another way and that people want to get on with their lives. For themselves and their families, they want to see a progressive and prosperous community with no conflict.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the institutions in Northern Ireland can deliver for the people there. We all look forward to engaging with MLAs from across the political spectrum in the term ahead. If I may, I take this opportunity to call on Jeffrey Donaldson in particular to do what he and his colleagues in the DUP were elected to do, which is to govern, make decisions, sign up to what they agreed in the Good Friday Agreement and get to work for the citizens in the North. Democracy must prevail over political posturing.
With regard to the specifics of the motion, a number of weeks ago, I raised on the Order of Business the ridiculous proposal of an imposition of an electronic travel waiver for non-Irish and non-British citizens going from the South to the North of Ireland. I said then what I will reiterate now. This is a nonsensical and unnecessary step by the United Kingdom. There is absolutely no need to go down this route. What is the purpose of it? What is trying to achieve? Will it make the Border a more secure place for citizens of either jurisdiction? I do not believe so. Will it benefit either side in any way? I do not believe so. It is completely and utterly unnecessary. We need to protect the peace and prosperity for which we have fought for many years. We need to ensure we maintain a frictionless border on this island. Anything less is unacceptable.
I welcome the strong position of the Irish diplomatic corps on this issue. I welcome the strong position the Minister is taking. I appeal to him to hold the line on this. We need to maintain openness and accessibility for workers, families and businesses. While the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 received royal assent in the UK on 28 April, how it will actually be implemented still needs to be set out. We must continue to work to encourage the British Government to apply exceptions to its ETA scheme. A core commitment in the programme for Government is to strengthen bilateral relations with the UK. If introduced as proposed, the scheme would create many challenges in the relationship. Our objective must be to work in partnership with our closest neighbour to address these challenges and further deepen our relationship.
I compliment Sinn Féin on introducing the motion. It will have the unanimous support of the House. It is important that this should be so. It would be a mistake to introduce it if it resulted in anything different. I also congratulate Sinn Féin on its election results last week. I recognise the achievement of the Alliance Party also. That sends its own message. Congratulations are in order in both cases.
I welcome my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Coveney. If he brings the same determination and competency to the issue of the ETA and the remaining negotiations on the protocol to set up the Executive that he brought to the Brexit question we can be confident. I know he is determined to do this. I respect the fact, and it should be acknowledged, that he is up and running and at it already today. He could not be at it any quicker because it is just after the count. It is important, and I recognise that.
It is a crazy concept that we would have the return of a virtual and electronic border. If it were to be implemented in its original form it would greatly disrupt trade, normal life, education, healthcare and social interactions such as inter-family ties. It would hugely threaten tourism. It is an absurd situation. It is contrary to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. It is contrary to logic and common sense. It is very important that it is vigorously opposed. It is very important that the Minister continues to do this. What everyone in the House is trying to say is that we want vigorous opposition to it to continue as the Minister tries to negotiate amendments to it. It is important to recognise the Minister has already raised it with the Secretary of State at the Intergovernmental Conference. It is also important to recognise that the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, has raised it with her counterparts and that the embassy and the diplomatic corps are working on it. This is all positive and has to continue.
An interesting statistic came up during Senator Currie's contribution. She stated surveys have suggested that 25% of potential tourists or people outside would see it as a barrier. These are people who would not come because of it. We can find it in reality. If, as the Minister stated, people come to Dublin to travel around and they see a difficulty with the North, they will go on to Donegal, down the western seaboard or elsewhere. They will not put themselves through this process and hardship. It will be a disincentive from the word go. If they do go to Northern Ireland, they will not come south. They will stay around the Giant's Causeway and the Titanic Quarter, but they will not come down south in these conditions. What is proposed has huge implications. As the Minister said, we are marketing the country as an all-island tourism entity. To put this at risk is shocking.
This is an area in respect of which we could have had, should have and, I hope, can continue to have co-operation. It is an area of obvious co-operation. This is also the case with our healthcare. The cross border health initiative is one of the great successes. People have gone to Belfast to have medical procedures. That has been a great success. It has worked very well. It is very quick and the reimbursement system works well. Perhaps it needs a few modifications to deal with people who have difficulty raising the funds.
It was a huge success and unifying factor on the island, and we cannot have something that would disrupt that. Education, including cross-Border education, is important. Coming from County Cavan, it is very clear to me how absurd this is and its potential danger. One has to hope and assume that a number of derogations will be achieved, but, ultimately, we need to achieve its abolition or an effective derogation in the case of tourism. An earlier speaker cited visitors with family in Donegal who wish to study in Northern Ireland or whatever.
No matter how we look at it, it is very dangerous. I thought it was instructive to listen to our new Senator who, in one of his first contributions, which was excellent, cited the ludicrous nature of it, its potential to reignite trouble and the ludicrous nature of what was there previously. His contribution, given his previous role, was interesting. It is a good motion. We have to unite behind it. We need the Minister to stay strong, and I have no doubt that he will.
I want to add my support and that of the Civil Engagement Group to this motion. My colleague, Senator Black, who would have loved to be here is, of course, a member of the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, which has also very clearly communicated its serious concerns.
In this debate, a suite of extraordinarily aggressive steps in policy by the UK regarding the treatment of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers have been correctly identified. We saw that begin with Windrush. I will come to Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland in a moment, but in terms of the general suite of measures, it has been an incredibly sad thing for the UK, which is a place with extraordinary diversity. It has a problematic history of colonialism around the world, yet people from many different origins could go there to make an imprint and shape a diverse future for the United Kingdom. The way those from the EU and the people affected by the Windrush scandal have been treated in the UK is isolating people within the UK. Those seeking to enter or leave are not the only ones affected. I am concerned for our neighbours in respect of the effects of these sets of policies and the damage they do in terms of separating people from their neighbours and honest engagement with their history.
These measures are also, sadly, another example of an extraordinary disregard for the rights and well-being of those citizens in Northern Ireland, in particular those who are not Irish or UK citizens, but rather EU citizens. There is an extraordinary disrespect for the Good Friday Agreement. We have spoken about some of the other issues, such as tourism. People who visit Grianan of Aileach also go to Derry. They are almost the same thing and involve the same tour.
There are also practical ways in which quality of life is being damaged in terms of co-operation. We have spoken about tourism, but all of the all-Ireland bodies will now face new obstacles, jeopardies and embarrassments in terms of their international co-operation measures. Senator Joe O'Reilly mentioned concrete measures in terms of health co-operation. The multiple unnecessary difficulties, obstacles and damages that could be created by a measure like this are substantial.
Core to the Good Friday Agreement is human rights. Human rights, and the entitlement of persons right across the island to an equivalent standard of human rights, is a fundamental pillar of the Good Friday Agreement. That is massively important. What is happening is concerning on two levels. There is a human rights breach within the Act, because the Act is not in line with international law and human rights. There are multiple examples, but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, has highlighted how it violates the refugee convention. The Law Society in the UK said it is violating the refugee convention. The UK's equality impact assessment of the Act found it would produce discrimination on the grounds of race and nationality. Racial profiling has been highlighted in that regard. It is fundamentally at odds with international human rights laws and laws on the treatment of migrants. It also diminishes the rights of relationship. The practical human rights of everybody on the island are diminished by this.
I take from the Minister his very clear message that we do not need to have a hard border return. The measures are very clear. If we start talking about particular waivers being sought, we are, in effect, talking about border controls. The electronic system for travel authorization, ESTA, in the US is a check on borders. We are talking about a mechanism becoming a hard border. We are also talking about things like racial profiling in terms of who gets stopped and asked questions.
It is also important that Ireland, at this and every level, continues to resist any race to the bottom in terms of rights, or any race downwards, given the very concerning race downwards in terms of human rights and standards. Ireland needs to be continue to have generous, welcome and inclusive refugee, migrant and asylum policies. We need to demand a rise in standards from those with whom we share a common travel area. I am glad the Minister is supportive of the motion. I support it, and it is an important message for the Seanad to send.
I welcome the Minister. I thank Sinn Féin for tabling the motion. I recognise and congratulate the MLAs that have been elected in Northern Ireland.
We celebrated Europe Day on 9 May. It was about peace and prosperity. We have seen how it has been so crucial for peace and prosperity. We see the threats to democracy across and outside of European borders. On the island of Ireland, we need to protect the people of Ireland. We are now yet again at a critical juncture. The Minister has faced pressure over the past number of years to manage the Brexit process and put measures in place to protect the people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. We need to figure out how we are going to manage and work well with our neighbours in the future with a plan and process in place.
I lived in Northern Ireland prior to the Good Friday Agreement. I know the power of that agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol to give assurance to people. At the Tánaiste has noted, the majority of MLAs in Northern Ireland support the Northern Ireland protocol. It is crucial that the Minister feels the support from Seanad Éireann today for the negotiations he faces in the time ahead and that Ireland speaks with a very clear voice about threats to agreements that have been negotiated on behalf of the people of Ireland. The United States has been has been clear in its support of the Northern Ireland protocol.
As someone with family and friends in the North, I know the importance of the recent elections. The Alliance Party is there to look at how we build consensus and compromise and to look at how to move forward with a society in Northern Ireland that will represent all of Northern Ireland.
We must acknowledge there is a voice there that must be listened to and we must show our strength when in negotiations in the time ahead. The Minister has the support of Seanad Éireann. I hope he takes that with him as he goes forward.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Leas-Chathaoirleach. Táim breá sásta go bhfuil an seal seo agam freagra a thabhairt ar an díospóireacht anocht. I thank the Minister for his contribution, and all my colleagues who support or will not oppose this motion. Both stances are appreciated. It would be remiss of me not to mention the legitimate and understandable concerns around racial profiling, because they have featured several times in this debate. It is right for this issue to be raised. There are live concerns the other way about the racial profiling of people travelling from the North into the South. People are being stopped on buses and this issue has been raised by groups such as the Committee on the Administration of Justice, CAJ, the North West Migrants Forum, NWMF, and End Deportations Belfast. I raised this matter with the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner. This is a live issue of concern and one equally worth mentioning and drawing to the attention of the Government.
I welcome the Minister's remarks about the need for the institutions in the North to return. I thank my colleagues across the Chamber who congratulated Sinn Féin, all the other parties and all the MLAs elected to the Assembly. I also take this opportunity to encourage all parties to heed the clearly-expressed will of the majority of people who want the Assembly and the Executive to be re-established. They want the DUP to nominate a deputy First Minister to serve alongside Michelle O'Neill, whom the people have elected to be their First Minister. People also want to see the more than £330 million that is available invested in order those funds can reach people and help to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, as well as commencing the process of investing more than £1 billion into the health service over the next three years.
Regarding this motion, and I say this not to be contentious but merely to acknowledge that the Minister will continue to engage with the British Government on this issue, the Minister in his contribution outlined a litany of issues where the British Government has not kept its word. These include the protocol and legacy issues. I add the matter of Acht na Gaeilge, and we could cite many more such examples. Respectfully, therefore, as the proposer of this motion, I am genuinely concerned that if this has been our experience to date, how can we and, indeed, why should we trust the British Government to act in good faith regarding resolving our concerns about this legislation?
I do, however, welcome the Government's engagement on this issue, be that at political or official level. The reality remains, however, that this Act is now on the books. This is the political and legal reality in which we are all operating. It is why the passing of this motion is so important. We will have sent a clear and unified message. We have work to do together to ensure this legislation cannot have, and will not have, the negative impact on life here that we all know it could. All the examples have been cited here tonight.
I also wish to hone in on the question put to the Minister by Senator Warfield regarding the part of this motion that deals with mobilising international pressure and support and solidarity, as the Minister has done effectively and exemplarily on the issue of Brexit. We will need to do that again to ensure international attention is focused on the implications of this legislation for life in Ireland. I appreciate that the Minister has referred to some potential moves forward. Tourism, however, cannot be left behind. For all the reasons the Minister knows and has outlined, and all the reasons outlined by colleagues across the Chamber, we cannot say: "That will do". I want to see this issue resolved in the fullest and most comprehensive and conclusive way possible to genuinely and sincerely ensure that the negative impact of this legislation is not felt in the way that it could be here, North and South. I again thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach, my colleagues and the Minister for taking part in this debate and for supporting this motion.
I thank Senator Ó Donnghaile. The Minister has already replied, but he has undoubtedly heard everything said in the intervening period.
When is it proposed to sit again?
Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.