Northern Ireland

Brexit: Ireland committed to protecting citizens' rights in NI

Helen McEntee Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Helen McEntee said the Irish government had "noted" there had been an update to the UK immigration rules

The Irish government has stressed its commitment to protecting the rights of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland.

It follows social media concerns that a change in UK immigration rules could mean some lose rights after Brexit.

Under the Good Friday peace agreement, anyone born in Northern Ireland has the right to be British, Irish or both.

The issue of citizenship was raised the last time Theresa May was in Northern Ireland and she said she would pass the concerns to the Home Office.

On Wednesday, the issue was raised in the Seanad (Irish senate) by Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile.

He said it was "crunch time" and called on the Irish government to give clarity after the speculation that a "tiered level of citizenship" could come into existence.

In response, Ireland's European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee, said it was "vitally important" the citizenship and identity provisions of the Good Friday Agreement were upheld.

"We are fully aware of the concerns that have been raised here today and concerns from many that these statements raise for Irish citizens in Northern Ireland particularly, given so much of the uncertainty that surrounds Brexit at the moment," she said.

Mrs McEntee said her government had "noted" there had been an update to the UK immigration rules "in order to give effect to the UK settled status schemes and the letter from the UK minister of state for immigration, Caroline Nokes".

"It is important to be clear that these statements in no way change the position that the EU citizenship of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland continues in all circumstances," she added.

"As EU citizens, they continue to enjoy the right to live and work throughout the EU and the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality."

In a statement, the Home Office told the BBC that it respected identity rights, as set out in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

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