Irish Republican News · November 24, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Referendum could affect Good Friday Agreement
Referendum could affect Good Friday Agreement

Irish politicians s have expressed grave concern about the implications for the Good Friday Agreement of the Dublin government's proposed constitutional referendum to restrict citizenship rights.

The Minister for Justice Michael McDowell suddently announced on Wednesday evening that he plans to hold a referendum to deny automatic citizenship rights to those children born in Ireland to non-national parents.

The amendment would only allow citizenship to such children where one of their parents has lived in Ireland for a significant time.

It would effectively rewrite Article 2 of the Constitution, which was modified under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

In a controversial concession to unionism, the Dublin government agreed to drop the constitutional identification of Ireland as the island of Ireland. This was replaced with the sentence: ``It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation.''

The constitution is to be amended to ensure that citizenship is again determined by law.

The Minister claimed he had acted at the request of Irish hospitals following complaints that numbers of non-nationals were seeking to take advantage of the situation and were creating a strain on maternity hospitals. He said the masters of Dublin's maternity hospitals had ``pleaded'' with him to do something.

But the masters of Dublin's maternity hospitals have since expressed concerned that they were being used to lend justification to the planned referendum.

A statement issued on behalf of Dr Sean Daly of the Coombe Women's Hospital said the issue was ``a political one and should be separated from the provision of obstetric services.''

Opposition politicians have now expressed concern that ``racist bigotry'' could now dominate the run-up to the European and local elections in June. And they criticised the Government for giving just 30 minutes' notice of an intention to publicly announce the referendum.

However, during a short parliamentary debate the Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, stressed there would be ``maximum consultation''. In particular, the timing of the referendum is likely to prove contentious.

Sinn Féin's Caoimhghin O Caolain said the referendum would have serious implications for the Good Friday Agreement and would ``unleash an untold tide of bigotry and racism''.

He said the proposal, from the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, would ``fuel the worst excesses within the Irish body politic'', create inter-communal strife and turn every platform into a ``tirade of bigotry and racism''.

John Gormley of the Green Party accused Mr McDowell of playing the ``race card'' in the elections. He also said that a White Paper, proper consultation and hearings on the issue were needed.

Labour's deputy leader, Liz McManus, expressed grave concern about the Government's change in approach to citizenship since the Good Friday agreement.

She quoted the Taoiseach saying in 1998 that ``in the event of Article 2 and 3 taking effect, no legislation will be promised by this Government to the Oireachtas which imposes restrictions on the entitlement to Irish nationality and citizenship of person born in Ireland''.

Meanwhile, some 1,100 Irish-born children of non-national parents, born before a recent Supreme Court ruling that removed the automatic right to residency for the parents, still face deportation despite holding citizenship.

© 2003 Irish Republican News