The Co-Chairman of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly Joe McHugh TD has supported the call of the Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar for the extension of the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland to provide a single tourist visa for people travelling to both countries.
Minister Varadkar made the call when he addressed the 44th plenary of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in the Seanad chamber, Leinster House, Dublin, today.
An extension of the Common Travel Area was one of four areas which Minister Varadkar said he would like to see pursued by the Assembly, the other three being:
•a common travel area for hauliers by setting up a functional area of
Britain and Ireland for cabotage;
•pursuing the delivery of mutual recognition of penalty points; and
•organising a parliamentary Gathering for 2013, as part of the
year-long Gathering festival of festivals being held in Ireland next
During his address Minister Varadkar said that while Ireland and Britain may not be in a position to join the Schengen area that allows tourists from the Middle East and Asia to travel to 20 European countries, Britain and Ireland should have a ‘mini-Schengen’ to mutually accept British and Irish visas.
Deputy McHugh said that the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly had consistently called for easier access and freedom of movement for visitors between Britain and Ireland and that the ‘mini-Schengen’ proposal was a commonsense step to facilitate tourism and economic development.
Minister Varadkar said: ‘It is my view that just as we have a Common
Travel Area for our citizens, we need to have a Common Travel Area for
tourists. Our Schengen area counterparts have a huge competitive
advantage over us. A tourist from China, for example, can get a visa
which takes in the entire Schengen area. But they will have to get a
separate visa for the United Kingdom and another one for Ireland’.
“I know this is an area attracting considerable attention already
between the British and Irish Governments and while there are various
legislative and technological barriers it is something worth
Deputy McHugh said: ‘The development of tourism is fundamental to our
economic recovery. Significant events such as the Gathering are being
developed to encourage visitors to Ireland in the coming years, and
major marketing campaigns are taking place internationally in support
“At the same time, the Governments should also look at ways to make it
easier for visitors to access and travel between Britain and Ireland.
We still have a situation where some international guests require two
separate visas to visit Donegal and Derry. This should be addressed as
a priority issue that will encourage tourism and economic development
in both countries.”