Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Citizenship referendum a diversionary tactic to take spotlight off Government's appalling record

21 May, 2004

Speaking at the same press conference Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the Governments citizenship referendum was a "diversionary tactic" designed by the Government to take the spotlight off its "appalling record" and "the real crises that people are dealing with day in and day out." He went on to say that the Government's campaign was being "led by a Minister who has shown himself incapable of responsibly managing immigration law reform and whose modus operandi is to curtail democratic debate and suppress dissent".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "There are many, many crucial pieces of legislation that need to be brought forward and implemented. We need legislation to recognise the rights of the disabled. We need legislation to give people a right to housing, universal healthcare and universal childcare. We need legislation to reverse double taxation and need fundamental tax reform to share the wealth. These are the priorities for the Sinn Féin legislators in Leinster House. These are the areas of most concern to the ordinary man and woman in the street. These are the areas where this corrupt and cynical Government should be directing its energies having failed to do so in the last seven years.

"But instead Minister McDowell and his cheerleaders in Government have decided to deflect mounting criticism by attempting to shift the blame on the weakest and most vulnerable sectors of our society, immigrants. And in doing so they are debasing our political system and have deliberately or otherwise promoted and exacerbated the growing trend of racism that is emerging across this island. In doing so, they have violated the Anti Racism Protocol for Political Parties.

"There is no crisis in relation to our citizenship law. The real reason for introducing these measures is to divert attention away from the appalling record of this Government and the real crises that people are dealing with day in and day out. It is a diversionary tactic to avoid dealing with the crisis of our crumbling healthcare system; our housing crisis and the crisis in our education system.

"The irony of all of this is that we have no problems issuing a passport and citizenship to somebody who has never set foot on this island and who has no intention of ever setting foot on this island but because their granny may have once sipped some green beer on March 17th while wearing a kiss me quick leprechaun badge. That Michael McDowell wants citizenship to be based on blood ties exposes as nonsense his claims to be either a liberal or republican. His referendum proposal is more appropriate to a cross-burning than constitutional change.

"But lets look at the Ministers chaotic modus operandi in managing immigration law reform. We have had three immigration bills in less than two years and another planned which has not yet been published. This is a piecemeal ideologically-driven approach when fundamental evidence-based root and branch reform is needed to create a modern positive, compassionate, human-rights compliant and anti-racist immigration system.

"This will be made worse by his proposal to amend Article 9, which will create internal contradictions with Article 2 that will need to be resolved in court. It will lead to the type of constitutional mess we have witnessed before when ill-considered and rushed amendments have been made to the Constitution. But the Minister is not concerned. He is too busy chipping away at our rights with an ideological chisel.

"The Minister's reform modus operandi has also been to curtail democratic debate and suppress dissent. On all three occasions when he proposed to change the law he failed to consult with affected sectors, ignored the Human Rights Commission and others recommendations, and sped the bills through the House to avoid proper democratic scrutiny and debate, and to prevent civil society from mobilising against his plans.

"He said this time he would consult and in fact he said he had consulted with the political parties. However, his idea of consultation was to call me in at 10 minutes notice, tell me what he planned to do and send me packing. He did this twice. At no time did he seek dialogue on this issue.

"This referendum process represents an anti-democratic pattern now established by the Minister for Injustice and Inequality and his Government." ENDS

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