Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has said that it is imperative that guarantees and practical solutions to the challenge Brexit poses to all our citizens, North and South, are put in place now as Brexit is just a couple of short months away.

Speaking on the Brexit Bill in the Dáil last night, Teachta Crowe said:

“Sinn Féin has been clear since the Brexit referendum in 2016 that the protection of full and equal access to EU benefits, such as the EU health insurance card, Horizon 2020 research funding and Erasmus programmes are vital in protecting the rights of Irish citizens living in the North of Ireland.

“It is welcome that the Irish Government has sought to make arrangements in order that people living in the North would continue to have access to EU health insurance cards in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“However, our approach to the rights of our northern citizens cannot be piecemeal, an add-on or an afterthought. We must make concerted and concrete moves towards protecting the rights they enjoy as EU citizens. They are and will continue to be EU citizens regardless of what flavour of Brexit our British neighbours cook up next.

“Brexit has highlighted the unique position in which Ireland finds itself. Hundreds of thousands of our citizens live only 50 miles or 100 miles from this Chamber and yet have far fewer rights than citizens who live the same distance in the opposite direction. What rights they have as Irish citizens now face the real threat of being diluted or diminished even further.

“We cannot rely on the goodwill of any British Government to protect the rights of Irish citizens. At times, it seems as though Irish people in the North having Irish citizenship is only a headache that some would have us forget, ignore or dismiss.

“This has been made painfully clear by the Emma DeSouza case. She has been dragged from pillar to post in the British courts system because she has the nerve to identify solely as Irish and not as British or a combination of both. Emma and Jake DeSouza have done all Irish citizens a service in highlighting the contempt in which the British administration holds our Northern citizens. It is this contempt, and the real impact of the stripping of fundamental rights enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, those citizens now face as Brexit looms.

“Minister Simon Coveney has committed the Government to protecting the rights of our citizens. We are, however, only a couple of short months away from Britain cutting itself away from Europe and forcibly taking Irish citizens with it. The British Government has also made similar commitments, but again, we have seen it tie itself in knots as it has tried to force the Internal Market Bill through Westminster. It is a race-to-the-bottom Bill which only serves to breach previous promises, break international law and tear up large sections of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Brexit is a reminder that we cannot rely on a Tory Government to honour its commitment or keep its word. We need legal guarantees that the Irish Government will protect all the EU freedoms and rights of our citizens and ensure their rights will be protected as staunchly as if they were from Dublin instead of Derry or Cork instead of Belfast. We need those guarantees and practical solutions to the challenge Brexit poses to all our citizens, North and South.”