News & Media

Howlin concern over Taoiseach migration comments

6 November 2019

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin TD, has expressed concern that the Taoiseach's comments on illegal migration risk giving people the wrong perception on the scale of the issue.

Deputy Howlin said:

“The most recent statistics show net migration to Ireland of nearly 34,000 people in the last year, but that is composed of 55,000 people leaving and nearly 89,000 people coming here. Up to 30% of people moving in each direction are Irish people.

“In that context, the arrival of 875 Albanian citizens and 556 Georgian citizens should not be blown out of proportion. The Department of Justice has been aware of asylum seekers coming from ‘safe countries’ for some time, and I don’t see why they cannot deal with any applications for asylum from these countries speedily.

“Given the scale of migration to and from Ireland, and given the frequency with which Irish people go abroad to work, the emphasis should be on social inclusion and integration rather than singling out the relatively low level of illegal migration coming into Ireland.

“People trafficking is a serious issue that everyone agrees must be stopped, to prevent any further tragic cases such as that of the Vietnamese people who died in the UK last week. The illegal employment and sometimes exploitation of undocumented migrants requires more labour inspections and penalties for unscrupulous employers. But neither issue is a reason to single out any particular nationality for criticism.

“We all know that there are over 10,000 Irish people in the USA who are illegal or undocumented migrants. I’m not aware of any Irish politician criticising them for whatever reasons may have caused them to end up on the wrong side of the rules. On the contrary, the Taoiseach has lobbied the White House and Congress on their behalf for them situation to be regularised. There are likely to be far fewer illegal migrants in Ireland.

“I welcome the Taoiseach’s aim to regularise the position of children of undocumented migrants who have been brought up in Ireland. This is something I specifically called for last year, and it is well overdue. However, the Taoiseach has not given a timeline for when this might happen.

“I agree with Leo Varadkar when he welcomes the fact that 120,000 people have become Irish citizens in the last few years. But the Taoiseach should also look at the unfair costs involved in adopting Irish citizenship. Descendants of Irish grandparents can gain a passport for €278, even if they or their parents never set foot in Ireland, whereas foreign nationals who are working and paying taxes here for years must pay €1,125 to complete the process of naturalisation. That is simply unjust, and the same, lower cost should apply to all new citizens.”