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Sinn Féin rejects proposed citizenship referendum

19 March, 2004

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said today that the party has rejected the Government's plan to strip the citizenship rights of children born in Ireland to non-national parents as violating rights secured under the Good Friday Agreement by creating "citizenship based not on birth but on race".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The proposal to grant some people the right of citizenship by birth but to remove the right of citizenship by birth from other babies with a different ethnic background is nothing less than an introduction of citizenship based on race. This goes against everything Sinn Féin has worked for in building an Ireland of Equals, and is also contrary to the Good Friday Agreement. We reject the Government's proposal as dangerously irresponsible.

"The Government is constructing this as an election issue in order to deflect attention away from their abysmal record on health, housing, education, and indeed the Minister's refusal to confront the problem of high crime rates and failures of policing in working class communities. The Government is particularly trying to scapegoat non-nationals for the crisis in the hospitals system to deflect from their mismanagement over almost ten years. This is totally unacceptable. The Irish people can see through this pre-election ploy and won't fall for it.

"The Minister has twisted the facts to fit his ideological agenda. He knows that his proposal will inflame bigotry and poison the national atmosphere but he is prepared to do this in the hopes of electoral gain. As it stands, racism in this state has prompted a rising level of hate crime, which has already resulted in assaults and deaths. It is the height of Ministerial irresponsibility to politically exploit this issue and it once again calls into question the fitness of Michael McDowell for his post.

"The fact remains that the people have spoken on the issue of citizenship in their overwhelming endorsement of the Good Friday Agreement. The Government has already subjected us to a referendum re-run on the Nice Treaty. We do not need a re-run of this issue too. The proposed referendum should not go ahead. Not during an election campaign. Not at all.

"Whatever about the policies of some EU states, Ireland is not alone in the democratic world in granting citizenship on the basis of birth. We are in the good company of Canada and the United States. If anything, we should be encouraging other EU states to consider de-racialising their own citizenship laws to bring them into line with this democratic practice.

"Therefore, we are taking the opportunity of the commencement of European Week Against Racism to call on the Government to use the Irish Presidency to do the right thing and send the right message "of respect for a truly diverse and inclusive Ireland and EU." ENDS

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