Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Citizenship referendum a violation of Good Friday Agreement and a betrayal of the 1916 Proclamation

21 May, 2004

Opening the Sinn Féin press conference to launch the Party's campaign against the citizenship referendum Mitchel McLaughlin, party chairperson, urged the electorate to reject the Government's "racist referendum" which he said was not only in "violation of the Good Friday Agreement" but also was a "betrayal of the 1916 Proclamation."

Mr. McLaughlin said, "We are urging people to vote NO to the Government's flawed, ill-conceived and what we believe is ultimately a racist referendum. We are unequivocal in that opposition. We are opposed to both the content and the processes involved. We were the first party to declare that opposition. And we utterly reject the Government's contention that this proposal is either necessary or desired. We stand by the 1916 Proclamation which declares that we should "cherish all the children of the nation equally". This referendum and the dishonest arguments put forward by the Government are a fundamental betrayal of that proclamation and indeed are also against the spirit and intent of the Good Friday Agreement.

"When the Government first put forward its referendum proposals Sinn Féin expressed serious concern that any interference with the Good Friday Agreement would be seized upon by elements opposed to the Agreement and whose declared intention is to see it wrecked. We stated that the anti-Agreement Unionists would use the Government's referendum, which directly alters aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, to argue that renegotiation of the agreement was possible. It has become very clear now that our analysis was exactly right. No sooner had the ink dried on the Government's referendum proposals than Ian Paisley's DUP were out of the blocks declaring, quite understandably from their point of view, the Good Friday Agreement up for renegotiation.

"Notwithstanding the ethical and moral issues surrounding the citizenship referendum itself, the Government, in bringing forward this proposal during an extremely sensitive and difficult time in the peace process has opened up a can of worms that won't easily be dealt with. They have given ammunition to those who are seeking to destroy the Good Friday Agreement, they are, through arrogance, ignorance and short term political thinking, ensuring that efforts to get the peace process back on a solid footing are made all the more difficult.

"Former US Congressman Bruce Morrisson speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, hit the nail on the head in terms of the Good Friday Agreement when he said not alone was it bad enough for nationalists to have had to give up the territorial claim to the whole island of Ireland through the changing of Articles 2 & 3 but if we follow through with the citizenship referendum on the basis of Britain's arguments in the Chen case then we will be forfeiting to a British Parliament the right to decide on who can and cannot avail of Irish citizenship in the Six Counties. That in anybody's book is a retrograde step that is way outside the intent and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The 1916 Proclamation, with its commitment to full equality for all children of the nation was a document well before its time. It was a document so progressive, so inclusive and so radically democratic that we are regretfully still only trying to live up to its promise and expectations. But we must not give up on its promise of a fully inclusive society.

"Sinn Féin has a clear vision for our future. It is a vision we have taken from the Proclamation of Easter Week and from the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil. It is what drives our equality agenda and it's what informs our position on this issue." ENDS

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