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Labour seeks to overturn the will of the people in Citizenship referendum

The latest and most serious attempt to overturn the referendum which overwhelmingly approved changes to the criteria governing eligibility for Irish citizenship in 2004 comes before the Seanad on Wednesday.

There have been, as we have noted before, several other Private Members Bills tabled by communist TDs, but this one in the name of Labour Senators Bacik and Humphreys, and TDs Ó Riordáin and Nash has got more attention.

It is also more carefully crafted than the far left proposals, and designed obviously to appeal to Government supporters rather than selling it as a “platform” to label most Irish people as Klan hooded racists for voting Yes in 2004. Government Ministers have previously opposed such bills in the Dáil, although the latest one was passed at second stage, so it will be interesting to see what they have to say in relation to the Labour Bill.

The only hint we have is that when the Bill was passed at second stage in 2018, that Fianna Fáil and the Greens supported it. They were in opposition then of course, but Lisa Chambers has displayed her own Pollyanna inclinations on this issue, so which will win out next week?

The practical implications of overturning the 2004 legislation would of course be the same, indeed worse, than at the time – as, presumably, would be the less than favourable response of other EU states were the Irish state to uniquely go against the position that pertains in all other member states.

The Bill proposes to overturn much of the spirit of the 2004 referendum which closed off the loophole whereby anyone born in Ireland would automatically be granted citizenship. That was deemed necessary in the light of the fact that it left open the prospects of potentially vast numbers of other people then claiming citizenship and residency on the basis of a family connection to a child born here.

All the arguments were put to the electorate who approved of the changes by a margin of just under 80%. This state, due to a less than rigorous application of the Good Friday Agreement regarding the citizenship of Irish people born north of the border, had allowed for what is known as Jus soli, “right of the soil,” which facilitates what is more commonly known as birthright citizenship.

Not only was Ireland the only European or EU state to naively gift such a spurious right, but the pre 2004 legislation had implications for all other European states with regard to Irish citizens being able to claim legal status within other EU states. Indeed, we may be certain that this was at least as much of a reason why the then Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat government changed the criteria, as anything to do with protecting the rights of genuine citizens.

Of 206 states currently recognised by the United Nations, just 35 grant birthright citizenship. The overwhelming majority of these of these are in Latin America. The United States also has birthright citizenship but in January this year, the Trump administration introduced new regulations in an effort to prevent women specifically travelling to the US in order to give birth and thereby enhance the prospects for other family members to claim citizenship. That was what was taking place here prior to 2004.
It was estimated that in 2015, almost 5 million American children had been born to the parents of illegal immigrants.

Between 2011 and 2019, some 23% of children born in Ireland were to non Irish mothers which interestingly corresponds more closely to the higher estimates of the non-national population we referred to previously.

While the current citizenship legislation was approved by referendum, proponents of overturning that result claim that a reversion to birthright citizenship would only require a legislative change and that this is supported by the 27th amendment. I am certain that this would be open to contention, but the current position is that the matter rests with the current Government.

Will it adhere to the overwhelming view as expressed by the citizens and the fact that the valid reasons for not extending birthright citizenship as recognised by the vast majority of world states, including those whose own citizens would be the main beneficiaries of changing our laws, still stand?

Or will it instead bow to the massive pressures being exerted by those who not only dismiss the 2004 decision as ignorant and ill-informed, but now state openly that anyone who would have the temerity to stand by the democratically expressed wishes of the Irish citizens are supposedly racist. It is certainly indicative of the power of that tendentious anti-national sentiment that not one single party in Leinster House has dared to state that they are either opposed to this, or that at the very worst it ought to be put back before the citizens as has happened with regard to other changes brought about by referendum and then over-turned.

It is also clear that on this issue and on others that directly impact on the Irish people, that those who take a pro life position, who support managed and rational immigration policy, and the individual rights of the citizens against the state where it seeks – as illustrated by the current Covid panic – to override those fundamental rights, are under-represented.

There are indeed a small number of mostly independent TDs and Senators who stand with a large and silenced, or attempted to be silenced, section of our people. That cannot continue or we may as well look on this period of centenaries of key events in the assertion of Irish nationhood as an epilogue to all of what was fought for and achieved.

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