Citizenship Bill rejected for institutionalising inequality
Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights has said Sinn Féin cannot support the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill because it "institutionalised inequality on the basis of the nationality of one's parents". "Equality at birth is a core republican and democratic principle.
Irish republicans do not want Irish nationalism to be exclusive and insular, but rather inclusive and internationalist, and rooted in full equality," he said.
Expressing his disappointment with the result of the Citizenship referendum and the Bill before the House Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I admit to deep disappointment with the referendum result and this Bill before us, because I believe that it takes Irish nationalism backwards, and fails to advance our nation towards an inclusive and truly, proudly multicultural Ireland. I am disappointed because it would appear that the majority of voters of all
political persuasions have not learned compassion from the legacy of Irish emigration, but instead swallowed the bait when encouraged by this Minister to scapegoat others for the unequal distribution of wealth and access to resources that this Government has not only presided over but aggravated."
The Dublin South Central TD expressed his regret that the concerns raised by the Human Rights Commission had not been addressed in the final draft of the Bill. He also called on the Minister for Justice to keep the promise he made to Opposition spokespeople in which the Minister said he would regularise the status of the non-national parents of Irish citizen children facing deportation.
Full text follows
IRISH NATIONALITY AND CITIZENSHIP BILL 2004
Second Stage Speech by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD
As democrats, we in Sinn Féin recognise the referendum result that has allowed this legislation to go forward. However, consistent with our opposition to the antecedent constitutional change that has removed the equal right to citizenship by birth and replaced it with an institutionalised inequality on the basis of the nationality of one's parents, we cannot support this Bill.
Equality at birth is a core republican and democratic principle. The equal right of each and every child to full citizenship on the basis of birth alone ?
not wealth, not race or ethnicity, not gender or any other factor - that is the jus soli principle is absolutely fundamental to republicanism and I believe to
democracy. I cannot consent to its abandonment to a jus sanguinis regime that has its origins in the racist doctrines of colonial Europe.
This Bill demands that we narrow the right of citizenship from a right conferred by birth on this island, to a right based on what the Bill refers to as
"sufficient connection" but does not actually define. But who are we kidding when we set this arbitrary threshold? Approximately 1.8 million Irish passport holders were born abroad and currently live abroad. They are citizens only by virtue of hereditary descent under Section 7 of the present Act. How are these people more connected to Ireland than those actually born here? How do you prove that an infant does not have "sufficient connection" to a place? And how do you prove that an infant born overseas has greater connection to this island and its people by virtue of its parents who have chosen to leave, than one born in Belfast, or Dublin, or Galway whose parents have chosen this island as their home? You cannot. And how deep is our hypocrisy in this presumption, when untold thousands of our ancestors and even immediate relatives have claimed the right to remain in America or Canada on the basis of the birth of child citizens of those countries?
Irish republicans do not want Irish nationalism to be exclusive and insular, but rather inclusive and internationalist, and rooted in full equality. That ethos
has never been more important than now, when we are contemplating a United Ireland in the near future, one that must treat all people born on the island of equal esteem, regardless of affinity, ethnicity, religious or political belief, or the origin of one's ancestors. We must be absolutely consistent in this. I appeal to deputies on all sides of this House who plan to support this Bill to think hard on its implications for the future. Take this opportunity to reflect
on what really defines Irish nationality, and how we want to build our nation. I admit to deep disappointment with the referendum result and this Bill before us, because I believe that it takes Irish nationalism backwards, and fails to advance our nation towards an inclusive and truly, proudly multicultural Ireland. I am disappointed because it would appear that the majority of voters of all political persuasions have not learned compassion from the legacy of Irish emigration, but instead swallowed the bait when encouraged by this Minister to scapegoat others for the unequal distribution of wealth and access to resources that this Government has not only presided over but aggravated. I say again, this is a mistake which we will all pay for down the road.
I do recognise and appreciate that greater efforts have been made since the Government's original proposal to Good Friday Agreement-proof the legislation, in keeping with their responsibility to ensure that neither violation nor dilution of the Agreement is a byproduct of this policy and this law. However, I must point out that there is an anomaly resulting in the formulation of the Bill ? a loophole, to use the Minister's language ? that violates the stated principle underlying the Bill, that of citizenship on the basis of "sufficient connection". In accordance with provisions in the proposed new Sections 6A(2)(c) and 6B(2) and (7) in Section 4 of the Bill, ALL British citizens ? regardless of whether they have ANY connection whatsoever, much less a demonstrably "sufficient" connection with Ireland, have a privileged position equal to that of Irish citizens when it comes to the automatic right of their children to citizenship. So under this legislation a couple with no Irish connection whatsoever, who have lived all their lives in Manchester could come to Ireland to give birth and have Irish citizenship rights conferred on their baby. However, the same will not be said for the couple from Cape Town, or Hanoi, or Santiago.
With regret I note that once again the Human Rights Commission has raised significant concerns prior to the final draft and publication of the Bill, but
that most of these, again, have not been addressed. I note that the Immigrant Council of Ireland shares many of the same concerns, and I will take these up with the Minister in greater detail at Committee and no doubt Report Stages, in the context of discussing Sinn Féin amendments. I also note that the Minister said he would engage in a "wide-ranging" consultation process on this Bill, but I have no evidence that this was the case.
Finally, I want to repeat Sinn Féin's call on the Minister to keep the promise he made to the Opposition Spokespeople and move immediately to regularise the status of the non-national parents of Irish citizen children facing deportation, and particularly those whose applications were made before the Government changed their policy and made it retrospective in the wake of the Lobe and Osayande decision. It is not acceptable that the Government changed the rules and forced these people to return to square one. It is not acceptable that the Government has accelerated deportations of the parents of these Irish children, which has amounted to the effective exile of 32 of these citizens to date. But we don't know what will happen to them in future, because the Minister has admitted to me that the Government has washed its hands of them. It has effectively told them get out and don't come back. It has forced the parents to surrender the childrens' Irish passports ? or in other cases it has facilitated the obtaining of Irish passports to get these citizens out of their own country quicker. The only alternative, which has happened in at least one case we know of, is for the parent to leave the child behind here in its country of origin, of citizenship. But we don't really know how often this has happened, or indeed the fate of such children because the Minister has admitted to me that he does not keep track of them either. This is a scandal and a stain on the nation. I urge the Minister to regularise these families now as there is no logical reason not to grant them amnesty on a humanitarian basis and in the name of fairness now that this Bill will not doubt pass, and in view of the possible success of the pending High Court challenge, and in view of the potential implications of the European Court of Justice decision in the Chen case, which has reaffirmed the right of EU child citizens to the care and company of their parents.ENDS