THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE has announced that restrictions on the rights of Bulgarian and Romanian individuals to work in Ireland have been lifted with immediate effect.
The restrictions formed part of the treaty under which the two countries entered the European Union in 2007, under which the existing member states were given seven years to phase in full access to their domestic labour markets.
Previous restrictions on entrants from the two countries had been gradually relaxed, and the restrictions – which were otherwise due to allow to remain in place until 2014, when regular EU laws on the freedom of movement would apply – have now been lifted entirely.
The Department said it received an average of less than 450 applications for work permits from Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, other than the self-employed or students who already had access to the Irish labour market. Of those, around 350 were granted.
It added that a study showed the number of PPS numbers being issued to Bulgarian and Romanian people had collapsed in recent years, and that the population of nations from those countries living in Ireland had fallen by about 3,000 in the three years to 2011.
“it has become clear that the basis for the continuation of restrictions on access to the labour market for remaining categories of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals is questionable,” it said.
As such, the Government has decided immediately to bring forward the transition date for access to the labour market for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.
The European Commission had contacted Ireland last December inviting it to assess the state of its domestic market and consider whether it was necessary to keep any restrictions on the rights of workers from newer EU states.
Ireland was one of the few existing member states not to impose any restrictions on the labour rights of workers from new EU member states when the Union saw its largest expansion, from 15 countries to 25, in 2004 – when Ireland held the presidency of the European Council.
This evening’s news means Ireland now allows citizens from every other EU nation to work freely in this country.