New Report Highlights The Plight Of The Irish Traveller Movement – House of Lords Event
House of Lords December 5 th the position of the Irish in Britain post Brexit
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
My Lords, has the Minister had the chance to look at the report that I sent him last week? It was launched formally here in Parliament last night and concerned the position of the Irish in Britain and how they will be affected after our withdrawal from the European Union. Will he agree to place in your Lordships’ Library a copy of his response, particularly relating to the implications for the 1949 Ireland Act and the common travel area?
Lord Callanan (Conservative Minister)
The noble Lord asks a good question. I have seen his letter and report. The situation of the Irish in the United Kingdom is of great personal interest to me. I will send him a reply in due course and would be happy to place a copy of it in the Library.
November 6th 2017:
Reply from the Government Minister, Lord Callanan. Click here:
To read the full report click here:
The rights of Irish citizens in a post-Brexit UK – remarks by David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool) host of a parliamentary event held on December 4th 2017:
Firstly, thank you all for attending. It’s great to see so many colleagues from both Houses and also to see Irish civil society organisations represented here today.
I’d like to thank the Traveller Movement for highlighting this critical issue and commissioning a much needed paper.
Thank you to Simon Cox for what is truly a fantastic and thorough paper, and to Professor Bernard Ryan for his very helpful contributions in its creation – we will be hearing from both in a few moments.
I must confess that I have a personal interest in this issue. I, like many in this room I suspect, have Irish roots. Irish roots I am immensely proud of. My mother emigrated to Britain from the West of Ireland – County Mayo in fact. I and my children also proudly hold Irish citizenship.
And this is why I think the issues surrounding the rights of Irish citizens in a post-Brexit UK is so critical. There are not many of us who do not have some connection to Ireland or to Irish people; either through relations or even just friends. There are not many of us who have not had their lives touched, for the better, by the Irish.
Throughout history, the Irish community have been a fundamental part of British society and continue to shape Britain for the better.
Take the city of Liverpool where, for nearly two decades, I was a Member of Parliament. It is often described as “the other capital of Ireland” – with three quarters of its population having some Irish antecedents.
That community has roots in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and in the great hunger produced by the Irish Famine of the 1840s. Liverpool elected the only Irish Nationalist MP to sit for an English constituency.
Many of its most notable citizens – from the social reformer, Kitty Wilkinson, to the sculptor, Arthur Dooley, from founders of institutions like Dr. John Bligh, to Sir John Brown, and Cork’s Richard Sadleir, Liverpool’s first mayor, countless contributions have been made to the civic life of the city from people in whose veins Irish blood has flowed.
Irish people are rooted in so many of our communities, in our churches and in our work places – they have built lives and families here and should continue to be free to do so.
The contribution of the Irish is something of which we should be immensely proud and we must ensure their status here is unaffected by Brexit.
Unfortunately, as the paper being launched today clearly demonstrates, the rights of Irish citizens – future generations and those already living here – are at risk and need to be secured with urgency.
There are, of course, some parts of the Irish community who will be at greatest risk if these protections are not put in place.
The Irish Traveller community have long faced significant prejudice in Britain. The Traveller Movement’s research – ‘Last acceptable form of racism?’ – recently found that service providers and healthcare providers routinely refuse access to Irish Travellers. A lack of legal and policy clarity in a post-Brexit UK would lead to those officials and private sector staff with prejudice to discriminate – consciously or unconsciously – against Irish Travellers who hold Irish citizenship.
But what we now understand – with great clarity thanks to the work of Simon, Bernard and the Traveller Movement – are the risks that all Irish citizens will face unless action is taken.
Despite repeated questions, the British Government has not explained how the Ireland Act 1949 operates to provide the rights to Irish citizens in the UK. Nor has it explained how the Common Travel Area provides Irish citizens with rights to work or receive healthcare. The UK Government has not even addressed its powers to deport Irish citizens.
Until Brexit, Irish citizens are protected as EU citizens. After Brexit there will be heightened public expectations about measures directed at people who are not British citizens. Can we safely say that the British Government has ensured that Irish citizens would be protected from such measures?
I am afraid that we cannot. In these most uncertain of times, we cannot rely on warm words or sentiments of shared values and trust.
And we most certainly cannot rely on the good nature and good will of Ministers and future Ministers.
History has repeatedly demonstrated that times and public attitudes change, and that benign political leaders can be replaced by others less so. Relying on goodwill is not enough.
Regulations that can be changed by the executive, and powers to take actions against individuals may be used in ways that run against current expectations.
Without guaranteed legal rights, Irish citizens are at risk of executive action.
That is why we need strong and firm leadership from the British government on this issue. We need strong legal guarantees of its promises to Irish citizens. We need clear legal measures in an Act of Parliament.
Thanks to this paper we know the gaps in law, but most importantly we know the solutions and the steps the Government needs to and should take. I commend it to you all and I hope it serves as the wakeup call that both the British and Irish Governments need.