Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs & Trade Darragh O’Brien has urged the Government to have contingency plans in place in the event of Britain voting to leave the EU.
Commenting on the issue Deputy O’Brien said, “The referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union is taking place in less than a month, the outcome of which could have serious ramifications for the island of Ireland. During questions in the Dáil this week, I impressed upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade the need for the Government to have contingency plans in place in the event of Britain voting to leave the EU. There is clearly no room for complacency on this issue.
“Several reports have highlighted that a Brexit would have serious negative implications for Ireland in the areas of trade, travel, tourism, agri-food and cross border relations. A recent report from Teagasc noted that Brexit could mean a reduction in the value of Irish agri-food exports of anything from €150 million (1.5%) to €800 million (7.2%) per annum, while an ESRI report found that a Brexit could reduce bilateral trade flows between Ireland and the UK by at least 20%, resulting in losses of approximately €3bn a year.
“While Brexit could result in several different scenarios for Ireland depending on the terms of the departure and prevailing economic conditions it is important nonetheless that the Irish Government is prepared whatever the outcome.
While this is a matter for Britain alone to decide, we cannot overlook the fact that Britain is our nearest neighbour and largest trading partner and we must do all we can to protect ourselves and our interests in the event of a Brexit”.
-Long processing delays and requirement for new applicants to have a public services card-
Fianna Fáil Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Deputy Darragh O’Brien is advising people who are due to travel abroad on holidays over the summer to check their passports as it's currently taking up to 6 weeks to process new applications. He also warned new applicants to be aware that they need a public services card to obtain a passport.
“I raised these issues with Minister Flanagan in the Dáil this week, telling him about the anxiety that can be caused to people who have spent significant money on travelling abroad who then find that they cannot travel.
“I’ve been informed that the Passport Office is currently experiencing extraordinary demand for its services. There is a high number of Irish people that are expected to travel to Euro 2016 in France, the Olympics in Rio and this is coupled with an increase in demand for travel abroad,” said Deputy O’Brien.
Deputy O’Brien made the comments after the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that 68,281 passport applications are being processed by the Passport Office, this is up over 13% on last year and nearly 14% of all applications are currently behind schedule.
“It would be terrible for any fans that spent great sums of money on travelling to France to support the boys in green in Euro 2016 being unable to attend the tournament due to having an expired passport.
“I told the Minister that despite the passport express service aiming to process applications within 15 working days, I have been contacted by many members of the public left waiting for almost double this time, jeopardising their travel plans. I urged the Minister to reassign department staff to clearing the backlog in passport applications.
“I encourage anyone that is due to travel abroad over the summer to double check their passport to make sure it’s still in date. People need to be aware that it could take up to 6 weeks for new applications to be processed. This could mean that people will miss out on their holidays if they only realise at the last minute that their passport is out of date.
“Since 29 March 2016, all first-time passport applicants who are resident in Ireland and are over 18 years of age are required to hold a valid public services card. This new requirement also applies to the small number of adult applicants whose last passport was issued before 1 January 2005 and which is reported as lost, stolen or damaged. People need to be aware of this also.
“While a passport is not necessary to gain entry to EU counties such as France, many travel companies will nonetheless refuse to accept any other form of identification. The backlog in the Passport Office is also in part being caused by UK citizens applying for Irish passports in case Brexit occurs.
“Fianna Fáil has called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan to assign additional resources to the Passport Office to help clear this backlog,” concluded Deputy O’Brien.
Newly appointed Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Darragh O’Brien TD has expressed concerns following media reports that the US border pre-clearance at Dublin Airport is under threat.
The Fingal deputy, in whose constituency the airport is located commented, “The reports in the media that there are manpower issues at the pre-clearance service offered to passengers by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency are worrying for Dublin Airport.
“Dublin is currently the only European city offering the pre-clearance service. This has been a great asset for the country, enabling passengers from Ireland to bypass long queues and delays at customs following their arrival in the US. It has encouraged passengers to fly directly from Dublin and not take flights from the United Kingdom to US cities.
“Last year all flights that wanted to be pre-cleared were able to avail of the service, but the increase in passenger numbers this year means that there is a risk that all-flights may not be able to pre-clear unless the additional resources are provided by the US CBP. It would be a loss if pre-clearance could not be maintained for all flights.
“I call on the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to clarify if they have made representations to any officials in the US on this issue and to prompt them to encourage the continued resourcing of this service. This arrangement has been beneficial for both countries which have strong historical bonds and I urge the US CBP to continue its proper resourcing,” concluded Deputy O’Brien.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade Darragh O’Brien TD has voiced his concern following reports that a number of Irish students planning to spend the summer in the United States are being forced to cancel their plans.
The students are being forced to change their summer plans as a result of issues surrounding the processing of J1 Visa’s.
Deputy O’Brien commented, “I’m alarmed by the growing number of students who are coming forward and highlighting the serious issues that they are facing in securing a J1 Visa. The changes announced to the J1 Visa Programme last November saw the introduction of new restrictions, including a provision which states that Irish students must have a pre-arranged job before travelling to the United States under the programme. However many Irish students have been unable to secure work to date, despite having spent large sums of money in applying for the J1 Visa and arranging flights.
“This development is disappointing as the J1 Visa Programme has been used extensively by Irish students for close to 50 years. It’s played an important role in facilitating students in accessing vital work experience. Unfortunately these new rules appear to have caused serious problems for Irish students, many of whom are now going to miss out on the opportunity to work and live in the United States for the summer. It’s worrying that there was little indication of serious problems until recent weeks, and many students are now only becoming aware of the new requirements under the programme.
“Ireland has a strong bond with the United States which stretches back decades. Our relationship with the United States developed as a result of initiatives such as the J1 Visa Programme. It's imperative that our close links with the United States are maintained. Accordingly I’m calling on Minister for Foreign Affairs apressnd Trade Charlie Flanagan to engage with officials on this issue to see if a better outcome can be achieved for those affected.
“I’ve tabled a series of parliamentary questions to Minister Flanagan on a number of issues including this which are due to be addressed on Thursday next. We must get to the bottom of this problem and prevent it from happening again,” said Deputy O’Brien.
Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Fingal, Deputy Darragh O’Brien has welcomed the decision by Minister Coveney to scrap plans that would have seen households charged for recycling their waste in green bins calling it a ‘sensible’ decision.
“Households should be encouraged to recycle as much of their waste as possible, segregating recyclable materials into the green bins, separate from household rubbish.
“These proposals which would have seen the pay-by-weight system introduced for green bins would have seen the incentive for people to recycle greatly reduced. This in turn could have also risked an increase in illegal dumping. It has been reported in the media that Dublin City Council spends more than €55,000 every single month dealing with the issue - nearly €700,000 per year.
“Scrapping this pay-by-weight proposal for green bins is the most sensible decision that Minister Coveney could have taken. Charging for non-recyclable household waste, in tandem with an absence of charges for green waste should lead to the considerable progress in encouraging recycling we have made in recent years being continued.
“The EPA has said the majority of households will benefit under the new pay-by-weight scheme, notwithstanding this some larger families could be charged more. This is fundamentally unfair and needs to be addressed by giving families an allowance for children.
“In government, Fianna Fáil doubled the percentage of municipal waste that is recycled from 20% to 40% from 2002 to 2011. We are a party committed to recycling and managing the environment sustainably and will continue to push for this in the future,” concluded Deputy O’Brien
Dublin Fingal TD Darragh O’Brien has been appointed Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade following the announcement of the Fianna Fáil front bench by party leader Micheál Martin TD.
Deputy O’Brien commented “I am delighted to be taking over a role with such a proud history within Fianna Fáil. Since our foundation, a positive, proactive and independent Irish foreign policy has been a core element of the party’s vision and has facilitated Ireland playing an important role in global affairs. We have often enjoyed a role and influence far in excess of our size or economic output and it is Fianna Fáil’s belief that we can and should continue to have those ambitions into the future.
“Ireland and Europe are facing into very uncertain times. There is the immediate threat of Britain voting to leave the EU, a chronic and growing refugee crisis, an unpredictable Russia asserting itself on Europe’s borders, the ongoing political uncertainty in the US, ongoing conflicts across the Middle East and Africa to name just a few. Ireland may not have the capacity to solve all or indeed any of these issues, but we have an opportunity to assert our analysis as an independent neutral Republic, with an emphasis on human rights, the dignity of the individual and respect for minorities on the international stage.
“Fianna Fáil’s intention, within the area of Foreign Affairs, is to bring forward policies and positions that build on our proud history, addressing the challenges facing the European and global community in 2016 and helping to establish Irish thought leadership on the big issues we face.
“In the important area of trade, working with our diaspora and leveraging the network of excellent Irish diplomatic activity across the world is something that has the enthusiastic support of my party. I also look forward to bringing forward new thinking on how to deepen and expand this activity.
“In the immediate term, I look forward to meeting with key stakeholders across the sector and also playing our part in seeking to positively influence Irish voters in the Brexit referendum.”