Dáil debate on EU migrant and asylum pact extended with vote delayed until next week

Move coincides with High Court application by senior counsel Una McGurk to delay vote until referendum takes place

Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton requested the delay on the grounds that more TDs wished to speak in the debate. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Debate on the European Union migrant and asylum pact has been extended, and the Dáil vote delayed until next week, following a proposal from Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton.

She requested the delay on the grounds that more TDs wished to speak in the debate, but Sinn Féin and the Rural Independents disagreed. However the Dáil voted by 74 to 68 to continue the debate next week.

The move coincided with a High Court application by senior counsel Una McGurk seeking orders to delay the Dáil and Seanad from voting on measures in the pact until a referendum was held. The matter was adjourned.

The Seanad had already voted earlier in the day by 30 to 11 in favour of the controversial pact. During the debate Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said Ireland had voted “very clearly” in the second Lisbon Treaty referendum to “pool our sovereignty when it comes to issues around security and migration”.


Addressing concerns about sovereignty and calls for a referendum on the controversial European and Asylum Migration Pact, Ms McEntee insisted that “this is not being forced on us. We have the option to opt in.”

Ms McEntee said “it keeps being raised that we are handing away our sovereignty and we need to have a referendum”.

She said that in the 2009 referendum “we said very clearly that we would pool our sovereignty when it comes to issues around security and migration.”

The pact aims to have faster processing of asylum applications, enhanced screening and security checks and quicker returns of unsuccessful asylum applicants.

But Independent Senator Michael McDowell rejected claims decisions could be made within three months.

He said based on Government figures of a “new normal” 25,000 to 30,000 asylum seekers a year, 120 cases would have to be processed every working day of the year.

“That will simply not happen. Anybody who cods us and says that is what will happen, is deluding not only themselves but the Irish people as well.”

In the Dáil, Fianna Fáil TD and Government backbencher Joe Flaherty said in 2020 there were 3,000 asylum applicants a year but “we did not react decisively and failed to read the emerging crisis globally as numbers soared”.

But he said “it is only through standing together as members of the European Union that we can address the challenges posed by immigration”.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said under the pact people who arrive in Ireland will be “in a holding area near the airport”. She said “we are being told it won’t be a detention centre” but they were getting no detail on this and she could not accept Government assurances when there are real concerns about “impinging on human rights”.

Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly said her party “wants what most Irish people want, a system that is fair, efficient and enforced”. But the measures in the pact “are not in Ireland’s interests”.

She added: “Some decisions are better taken locally and one size does not fit all.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times