Monday 22 January 2018

'Remove US officials from Irish airports' - Minister

Flanagan to raise issue in Washington

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Ireland should be prepared to withdraw permission for US immigration officers to operate in Dublin and Shannon airports in light of Donald Trump's 'Muslim ban', a Cabinet minister has said.

Katherine Zappone, who is a US native, is demanding a review of the legal implications for Ireland of Mr Trump's order, which prevents travellers and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries gaining entry to the US.

The American Embassy in Dublin has warned that even Irish passport-holders who also claim nationality in one of the seven countries will be turned away.

In a major diplomatic departure, the Children's Minister said she will ask her Cabinet colleagues to act quickly to remove US Homeland Security's power to screen passengers on Irish soil if citizens are being discriminated against.

"I think the Irish people would be in favour of that and certainly the Irish-Americans would be favour of that as well," she said.

"We need to determine whether our Constitution and the international treaties we have signed up to, that those laws operate in context of Irish soil in terms of prohibiting those policies of discrimination against nationalities, and also people of particular religions, that Donald Trump has implemented."

People gather to pray in the baggage hall at Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Photo: Reuters.
People gather to pray in the baggage hall at Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Photo: Reuters.

Legal sources last night told the Irish Independent that the arrangement between the USA and the Irish Government is based on the understanding that pre-clearance procedures do not diminish the rights enjoyed by individuals under our Constitution.

It comes as the US Embassy in Dublin issued a notice to nationals of the countries affected, including dual nationals, stating that they will not be granted visas.

People who have already scheduled a visa interview at the US Embassy in Ballsbridge have been told to not bother attending, "as we will not be able to proceed".

The countries affected are Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

The Department of Justice was last night unable to supply figures for the number of Irish citizens from these countries; however it is likely to be in the thousands.

While attending a Holocaust memorial event in Dublin, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was "very concerned" by developments.

He intends to raise the issue during a series of engagements in Washington this week.

"Irish people are concerned at the dramatic changes in the United States of America. I look forward to visiting Washington on Tuesday next, I will be engaging with particular reference to immigration and Irish immigration," he said.

"I believe that we all have obligations to the international community and in particular to the Geneva Convention and the terms and conditions, obligations to that convention, and I think it's important in these circumstances that we fully observe the letter of the Geneva Convention."

Asked about the situations at Dublin and Shannon airports, Mr Flanagan said it was a matter for the US administration and the Department of Transport.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Shane Ross declined to comment but his Independent Alliance colleague Kevin 'Boxer' Moran has backed the idea of a legal review.

"We have a moral duty to speak out and I find events that are unfolding in America over the last 24 hours to be deeply disturbing, a view shared by our EU partners," Mr Moran said.

"It is my view that there should be no facilitation of such orders."

Ms Zappone said Ireland should take its lead from the Irish-American mayors of US cities who are "out protesting".

Irish Independent

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