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21/10/2021

Kildare Senator calls for fast tracking of visas for hospitality and food production workers

 Irish citizens abroad are advised to err on the side of caution as Covid-19 threatens to close borders

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A Senator from Kildare has called for the fast tracking of visa’s for hospitality and food production workers.

Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O’Loughlin questioned the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English on the government’s plans to solve the skills gap being experienced, especially in the hospitality and food production industries.

Senator O' Loughlin also called on the Tánaiste to fulfil his brief, and to intervene to ensure that an appropriate workforce is available to businesses in Kildare.

The Newbridge politician said: "Many businesses have faced such adversity over the last 18 months and many of them are fighting for their businesses very survival. "

Government subsidies have been forthcoming and have stopped the financial bleeding for many businesses, and the business owners’ owners that I speak to are very appreciative of the suite of financial supports that have been made available to them."

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 She continued: "But the government now need to reposition their focus and support businesses back to financial independence."

We have businesses in South Kildare that are turning down work due to staff shortages, and after the 18 months they have faced, especially in the hospitality sector, that is just unacceptable.

Many of our local businesses were lucky to be employing highly skilled professionals prior to the pandemic, many of whom happened not to be Irish citizens.

As a result of Covid, many returned home to their native countries at the height of the pandemic to be closer to loved ones. But now due to visa issues they are unable to come back."

Senator O’Loughlin concluded: "The Tánaiste and his department must act, and they must intervene here; without access to an adequate workforce, many businesses will never reach financial independence, and supporting businesses to stand on their own two feet must be governments priority."

"One aspect of that is ensuring that access is to prioritise visa’s for workers of identified skill gaps."

Senator O' Loughlin's concerns echo those of over 65 hospitality leaders in the UK, who last week told the British govt that the sector is "close to imploding," and as such called on the govt to ease visa rules for staff.

More recently, it was reported by Bloomberg that the UK has only seen 127 applications for fuel driver visas, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson attributed to the global shortage of drivers.

Last month, Minister for Justice Heather Humphries announced that visitors to Ireland requiring short stay visas could apply for them from September 13.

This now allows visitors from countries such as China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines to visit here again, so long as they comply with public health regulations.

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