Deputy Anthony Lawlor: I welcome the Bill, which has been talked about for a long time. It leads on from legislation introduced by the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to provide for a visa link-up with the UK. It means people coming into the UK from China and so on can travel on to Ireland freely because of the visa arrangements. This legislation is another step along the way. It also reflects positively on our employment prospects that legislation has to be brought forward to fast-track green cards and work permits in sectors of our economy for which we do not have sufficient workers within the State. Senator Clune has mentioned this a few times. I welcome the fact that the Minister listened to us on the backbenches when we brought forward ideas. This proposal was made by Senator Clune.
Opposition Members might ask why we are bringing this in and why we are not looking after our own citizens. FDI companies and some of their feeder companies have employment opportunities but they cannot recruit suitable Irish candidates. I hope the Minister will strengthen the regulations. If a job is taken up by someone who needs a green card, I am concerned to ensure the job is well advertised in order that the opportunity is available for our own suitably qualified citizens. It should also be advertised in a way that ensures people must be eligible for it rather than companies laying down criteria they know people here cannot meet, which means they have to go elsewhere.
The speed at which work permits and green cards are processed has improved. This morning, the backlog dated to 6 May and, therefore, if someone applied on 6 May, he or she will receive the work permit shortly, which is welcome. It is quicker to secure a green card than to get a response from Irish Water. Perhaps the departmental staff can be transferred to Irish Water.
The Bill also deals with the Hussein judgment. During the Celtic tiger era, almost 40,000 green cards and work permits were granted annually and many of them were given to people in low-wage jobs, who were exploited. The move to accommodate the judgment is positive. I am supportive of the Bill, which is a necessary stop forward.