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Minister's proposed citizenship referendum dangerously irresponsible

10 March, 2004

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has described as "dangerously irresponsible" the announcement by the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell that he plans to call a referendum on Irish citizenship on the question of the rights of citizen children of non-national parents, possibly during the coming election period.

Following a briefing by the Minister Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Michael McDowell's announcement will be grist to the mill of others currently propagating an agenda of racism and xenophobic intolerance that is growing across this island. It is inconceivable that the Minister could not be aware of this fact when he made his announcement and I question his motives.

"His demand for an early referendum, possibly coinciding with the June 11th elections, suggests very strongly that the Minister for Justice is quite deliberately setting about making race an election issue. This is dangerously irresponsible behaviour for a Minister.

"All political leaders and members of Government have a responsibility to ensure that the race issue does not feature in the upcoming elections. The Minister for Justice and Equality has the greatest responsibility of all in this.

"I call on the Minister to withdraw his proposal immediately. At the very least, it must be put on ice until after the elections are over. But frankly, the damage may already have been done.

"This latest announcement cannot be interpreted as anything but an escalation in the Minister's war on a rights based society. But it also represents a new front in his war on the Good Friday Agreement - one of the key provisions of which was a constitutional change guaranteeing citizenship as a birthright." ENDS

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