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Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I noted with interest some of the remarks from Senator Feighan. I do not disagree with what he proposed or suggested on the role the Government can play in supporting and helping to develop other peace processes around the world. However, I would contest that it should probably focus more of its attention on our indigenous peace process and the outstanding commitments before it starts to focus on processes elsewhere. These include a public inquiry into the murder of Mr. Pat Finucane, the introduction of legislation on human rights and legislation on the Irish language.
RTE's report this morning that the Department of Foreign Affairs has employed an additional 230 staff in the Passport Office is quite good news. This is probably the only example where Brexit is creating jobs on this island as opposed to doing damage to our jobs. The figures for me were quite stark and impressive. I commend the staff in the Passport Office who, it is clear, have been dealing with a huge amount of additional work as a result of this. Looking at some of the figures, there was a 74% increase in passport applications from Britain compared with January last year. In the North, 7,000 people in January alone applied for passports. That is a huge percentage increase on January of last year. In Britain, there was a jump of 71% in January of this year compared with last year. Overall, in 2016, there were 67,972 passport applications from the North, while there were 64,996 passport applications from Britain as well. We have spoken numerous times about Brexit and its huge economic, political and social implications. I hope the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and indeed the Taoiseach, will come back before us soon, and indeed regularly, to discuss that with Senators. This would allow for a very practical debate with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the issue of citizenship post-Brexit. What will citizenship look like and mean? What will it do for people in the North who want to avail of their Irish and therefore EU citizenship?
This is an example of where the Government could take a positive unilateral initiative by opening a passport office in the North, which would not just be symbolic for Irish citizens there. The figures indicate it would be a practical strategic advantage for the Government to do that. Perhaps the Leader will consider us discussing that and raising it with the Minister.