Campaign against ‘racist’ referendum builds

A press conference on Sunday organised by the Campaign Against the Racist Referendum warned that the controversial citizenship referendum in the 26 Counties could make Article 2 of the Irish constitution, which people voted for in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement, completely redundant.

The controversial citizenship referendum in the 26 Counties may be approved by a much smaller margin than anticipated, according to the latest opinion poll.

Aisling Reidy of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said that this amendment would completely reverse the basis of Irish citizenship law.

“It is also the traditional republican approach to citizenship, which treats all children as equal at birth,” she said.

“This is not a new situation, it is not a loophole. It was also an issue that was spelt out in black and white by the Referendum Commission in 1998, when the Irish people voted for Article 2.”

The Labour Party leader, Mr Pat Rabbitte, has criticised the Dublin government for “railroading” the electorate into voting on the citizenship referendum next month.

This was being carried out for Fianna Fáil’s “parochial, partisan, political advantage”, and the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, was a “willing patsy” in raising the issue, Mr Rabbitte said in Galway yesterday when he launched his party’s national campaign opposing the referendum.

The Labour Party leader was particularly critical of the referendum’s timing, and said that people were far more concerned about issues like health, crime, and traffic management than about the subject of the citizenship referendum.

“Any time we seek to change the Constitution, we should do so with great care, but we’re being railroaded into this referendum for no other reason than it coincides with the local elections,” he warned.

There is evidence of a public backlash against the referendum, with some 67 per cent saying they do not want it held on the same date as the European and local elections on June 11.

Just 55 per cent of the electorate said they would vote in favour of the proposed change to the Constitution, a far lower level of support than the Dublin government expects.

The poll suggests the referendum may still be defeated. Several government TDs, including Liz O’Donnell of the Progressive Democrats and Barry Andrews of Fianna Fáil, have voiced concerns about the timing of the referendum.

The poll also shows almost two in five voters believe the referendum will encourage racism, a claim vigorously denied by Justice Minister Michael McDowell.

A far greater proportion of voters, 62 per cent, said they were worried about the level of racism in Ireland.

Although 18 to 35-year-old voters appear to be most concerned about racism in Ireland, they are just as likely to vote in favour of the change in the Constitution.

While opposition parties are attacking the government on its plans, support for the change is relatively uniform across the political spectrum.

The highest level of support is among FF/PD voters at 65 to 70 per cent, while the lowest level of support is from Green Party voters, at 45 per cent support.

Those seeking a `No’ vote will be encouraged by the survey, and may lead to a more vigorous campaign against the referendum.

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