'Disgraceful' people will be asked for papers to get from Donegal to Derry: McDonald

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has described it as 'disgraceful' that the British Government will require people living in Donegal to produce papers to travel over the border into the north.

Deputy McDonald raised the controversial provisions of Britain's Nationality and Borders Bill in the Dáil this week.

The legislation which is going through its final stages at Westminster will amend the UK's Immigration Act 1971 and require non-Irish European Union and non-EU citizens living in the 26 counties produce 'papers' to get from Donegal to Derry.

The papers will come in the form of an electronic travel authorisation, ETA, under British Home Secretary Priti Patel' s new bill which has been approved by the lower and upper houses at Westminster. It is now awaits the assent of Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland before becoming law.

LIFFORD BRIDGE: Non-Irish European Union and non-EU citizens living in the 26 counties who wish to travel to the north will be affected be new British bill.

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Ms. McDonald said: "The British Government is pushing forward with the requirement for EU citizens who are not Irish or British to apply for travel clearance if they want to travel North to South or vice versa.

"This is a disgraceful situation. It undermines the Good Friday Agreement and the common travel area. It creates significant restrictions on freedom across our island. I do not know whether the Minister believes that it is acceptable but I find it wholly unacceptable that, for example, a Polish person who lives and works in Lifford, County Donegal would need papers to travel to Strabane, or from Emyvale to Aughnacloy. The Minister knows this is the reality for so many people who live in our Border region."

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The Sinn Féin leader said the provisions of the bill will be 'absolutely devastating' for the tourism sector.

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"All of us know that when visitors come, from the United States of America, for example, they travel right across the island. Should President Biden pay a visit to Ireland, we could be faced with the bizarre situation whereby he and his party are required to register for permission to travel across the island.

"The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, has been in touch with Boris Johnson on this but the Taoiseach needs to intervene strongly with Boris Johnson to call this out. We need to mobilise diplomatically across the world to put a halt to this disgraceful action," she said.

Michael McGrath, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said: "The Government stands foursquare behind the common travel area and the open Border in all respects. We do not in any way support or endorse the decision that was taken in the House of Commons.

"We have serious concerns about the proposal for an electronic travel authorisation system. We do not believe it is either practical or fair to seek to distinguish between EU citizens from other member states and Irish citizens going across the Border.

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"There is a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference later today and the issue will again be raised directly with the British Government. I assure the Deputy that we will be taking this up with the British Government at the highest level because we do not support this and we do not believe it is acceptable."