Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD has called on the Government to guarantee that students from Northern Ireland will not be subject to non-EU fees when studying in the Republic of Ireland once Brexit comes into effect.

Deputy Byrne said, “I believe that the Government should guarantee students from Northern Ireland that they will not be charged non-EU fees once Brexit takes effect. The Government could in the first instance take a unilateral decision on this issue in respect of students from Northern Ireland only. Ideally, we would like to see such an arrangement reciprocated, but the Irish Government should move quickly to deal with this issue.

“Brexit is causing a great deal of ambiguity and worry for many students and their families. I believe that the Minister for Education and the Government need to act on this and provide certainty on the issue of fees for Northern students coming south – they should be treated the same as they are today. Moreover, under the Good Friday Agreement citizens in Northern Ireland are entitled to both British and Irish citizenship and thus in effect EU citizenship. Therefore students from Northern Ireland have an entitlement to EU citizenship and this entitlement and its many benefits, needs to be upheld in full.

“Maintaining the flow and mobility of students between North and South is essential. Non-EU fees are charged at a significantly higher rate than EU fees and will undoubtedly place a significant financial barrier in the path of students from Northern Ireland wishing to study south of the border. This would fly in the face of the letter and spirit of our various peace deals and the last two decades of cross border work.

“The people of Northern Ireland are facing enough uncertainty because of Brexit; the Government should provide certainty where it can and guaranteeing students from Northern Ireland that they will be exempt from paying non-EU fees would be an important step in the right direction.”