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 Header Item Brexit Issues (Continued)
 Header Item Direct Provision System

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire] I ask the Minister once again what plans he has to legislate for this area.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Irrespective of the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union on 29 March or at some time thereafter, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. We all acknowledge the importance of the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts. However, some of those parts need to be strengthened and that will involve legislation, in particular legislation in the United Kingdom. I refer specifically to the need for a bill of rights. This is an issue that has been continuously raised in the context of our relationship with the United Kingdom, and one that I know features prominently in the context of the Northern Ireland talks, which are not now taking place.

It is important that we acknowledge the continued existence of the common travel area. In its current format it has served Ireland well now for almost 100 years, and that will continue. As co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, we need to continue to engage to ensure that citizenship and identity provisions, as outlined in the agreement, are fully respected and upheld in all the appropriate and relevant policy areas.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire We have debated this matter back and forth and, as of yet, I do not believe the Minister has given any firm commitment to legislative change in this jurisdiction, even though it has been clearly outlined that that is needed. Perhaps he could clarify that. One case relates to Derry-born Emma DeSouza. Based on her Irish citizenship, her US husband has residency rights in the European Union but Ms DeSouza has been told that she must first renounce her British citizenship, which was automatically acquired at birth but never desired, sought or claimed. It is a default citizenship that appears to trump her second class Irish citizenship. There are numerous other cases of citizens who have not been able to obtain a visa through the Irish system because they are resident in the North, despite being Irish citizens. Issues also arise in relation to naturalisation. I have met in Belfast some of the numerous people who, despite having children who are full Irish citizens, cannot claim a right to naturalisation in this State because their child is not resident in this jurisdiction and they themselves are not Irish citizens. In several respects there is a clearly a legislative deficit that the Government has not as yet addressed. Does the Minister intend to deal with it and legislate to provide for such issues, Brexit or no Brexit?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan A number of points have been raised by Deputy Ó Laoghaire. In response to his point about children, in the first instance it is important to draw a distinction between the rights of the child and the rights and expectations of the parents with regard to citizenship. Birth on the island of Ireland may result in Irish citizenship when the child was born without entitlement to citizenship of another country; the child was born to an Irish citizen or a UK citizen; the child was born to a person with unrestricted Irish residence; the child was born to a person with unrestricted residence in Northern Ireland; or the child was born to a parent with lawful residence. These issues are technical and complex but I accept that what we need is clarity in relation to persons who are born on the island of Ireland and in respect of persons who may be non-EEA parents resident in Ireland having to apply for Irish citizenship through our naturalisation process.

  I acknowledge the importance of the issue and refer to editorial comment in today's edition of The Irish Times, which makes specific reference to the issues surrounding what Deputy Ó Laoghaire has said. There is an onus on the UK Government in this regard to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to recall commitments made in respect of these issues, with particular reference to the citizenship entitlement of people who are currently in residence in Northern Ireland, born in Northern Ireland but, in effect, Irish citizens. There are a number of issues that still require clarification but I assure the House of the efforts of the Government in this regard.

Direct Provision System

 7. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he is satisfied with the level of security provided at current and future direct provision centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11964/19]

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins This question relates to the recent fires at the Shannon Key West Hotel and the potential for events which could come to pass. Both these events were serious and represent a real and pressing danger for both the people working in the hotel and those in the wider community. If the hotel had been in use at the time, we would be dealing with a different set of circumstances and potentially a major tragedy. What security is in place at that and other direct provision centres around the country?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The accommodation and ancillary needs of persons seeking international protection, who request such services, are currently provided through 39 accommodation centres located throughout the State. Since the introduction of this system, all of the centres have been operated by commercial bodies regardless of whether the sites are in State ownership or private ownership. The commercial operators are responsible for the provision of security at these sites.

Contractors must work to achieve balance between addressing any possible security concerns, while also recognising that these accommodation centres provide a home to protection applicants. All centres operate a common visitor policy where all visitors must sign in upon arrival and are not permitted to go into private living quarters of residents. For safety and security reasons, most centres operate CCTV systems in accordance with general data protection regulations.

In general, the Reception and Integration Agency advises that where there is CCTV in operation, it should cover the following areas of an accommodation centre: the entrance gate and car park, if any, the main door and reception area, and all public areas. In respect of  future accommodation centres, contractors offering the premises are obliged to ensure that appropriate security is in place before it becomes operable as a centre accommodating persons seeking international protection. The recent fires at Rooskey and Moville were distressing and potentially tragic events. In both cases, security was present at the time of the fire. Following the recent fires, officials from the Reception and Integration Agency have been liaising with all current centre managers asking them to review their security arrangements. It is important to note that where accommodation centres operate, there are quite good relations with local communities and local community groups and, historically, the security risk to these centres is minimal. This only serves to reinforce that scaremongering about such centres is baseless. However, the RIA is also liaising directly with An Garda Síochána at a national level to discuss potential security risks to accommodation centres and how these risks should be addressed.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins We know that the individuals who live in the centres face serious difficulties in their day-to-day lives in terms of access to education and work. Security provided to those people is the responsibility of the State. There is no alternative provider, nor do those within the direct provision system have recourse to addressing those security concerns through other measures so the responsibility falls on the State. Is the Minister putting any additional security in place at the centres to prevent further attacks? What is the required level of visible security at those locations to dissuade people who might be minded to attack the centres?

The message must go out that by attacking the centres one will not defer them opening as a reception centre for people who are seeking asylum or refugee status in this country. One cannot allow the people who are attacking the centres to win and get their way. I think we would all agree on that point.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire I thank Deputy Niall Collins for tabling this important question. I condemn the attacks on the direct provision centres in Rooskey and Moville, which happened on multiple occasions in the case of the centre in Rooskey. There seems to be a clear intent to ensure the centres do not open. That is very likely motivated by a racist intent. I do not believe it is in any way reflective of the local community. It is very likely that those involved are from outside those communities. Is the Minister concerned about the possibility that those involved could in any way be linked to extremist or far-right activists of any kind, and that they might have any responsibility for the attacks?

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