Human rights groups flag referendum dangers
Human rights groups flag referendum dangers

A number of human rights groups have expressed grave concerns over the Dublin government's upcoming referendum on Irish citizenship.

Amnesty International, the Human Rights Comission, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Children's Rights Alliance have all attacked the government's handling of the referendum and the immigration issue in general.

The president of the Human Rights Commission, Dr Maurice Manning, said the commission still believed next month's referendum "may in itself raise issues relating to the protection of human rights".

In a statement issued yesterday, the commission again raised concerns about the Government's lack of consultation with the commission or the All-Party Committee on the Constitution in advance of taking the decision to proceed with the referendum.

The commission also expressed concern about the future constitutional protection of children born in the State of parents who were not Irish citizens. It said much of the evidence offered in support of the proposed amendment seems to be "vague or anecdotal in nature".

There was also concern as to the potential impact of the proposed amendment on the Good Friday agreement.

"In view of the complex issues surrounding the interpretation of the agreement, the commission regrets that the Government did not take the opportunity to refer the matter to the joint committee of the two human rights commissions on the island, and/or to the parties of the Northern Ireland Assembly."

The Irish branch of Amnesty International also expresed dismay at the lack of consultation in relation to the referendum.

Speaking at the launch of Amnesty International's annual report, the Executive Director of its Irish branch, Mr Sean Love, said that there has been an effective dismissal of the Human Rights Commission's views.

"Both the Human Rights Commission's and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's views should be taken on board by the government", he said.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties called for a 'No' vote in the June 11 referendum in the 26 Counties.

The council said the referendum would create an underclass of children whose rights were dependent on their parents. It also said it would cause confusion about Article 2 of the Constitution, which says all children born in Ireland are part of the Irish nation, and would interfere with the Good Friday Agreement.

The Children's Rights Alliance, which represents 78 child-welfare groups, also called for a 'No' vote.

"If Government policy is to keep Filipino nurses in Ireland, why punish their children by weakening their rights by denying them Irish citizenship?" the alliance asked in a paper outlining its opposition to the Government proposal. "If the objective is to have fewer non-Irish-national births, why not issue fewer work permits? Why express surprise at a significant rise in the number of children born to non-Irish-national parents when it arises as an entirely predictable outcome of Government policy?"

The paper said the child-benefit allowance "may no longer be available" to such children, "at least until they have established a sufficient, multi-year period of residency".

The citizenship referendum "is about the rights of children", the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, said on Monday.

"If this is passed, two children born in the same ward on the same day could be deemed to have different constitutional rights," Mr Adams said.

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