Friday, June 11, 2004

Safe European Home

Today my country is going to the polls. There are local elections, European Parliament elections and a referendum. Ah, the referendum! I have never been overly exercised by the multitude of referendums (that's the correct plural, I've checked!) that take place in this country - EU treaties, abortion, divorce and so on - but I am very exercised by this one. Following the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998 it was enshrined in our constitution that all people born on the island of Ireland were entitled to Irish citizenship. As the constitution had originally stated that the territory of Ireland consisted of the whole of the island, its islands and seas, legislation was always in place to allow all those born here to apply for citizenship. Immigration, being non-existant until the early part of this century, did not create any issues.

But that has changed. Over the last 2 years it became apparent that a pregnant woman could travel to Ireland to have a child, thus having an Irish child, which implied any "illegal" immigrant would then have residency rights. The Irish Supreme Court since decided that having an Irish citizen child did not automatically grant residency rights to the parents. So all the NIMBYS were happy. But then a complication arose. A Chinese woman, looking to stay in Britain, was advised to travel to Belfast to have her child. This meant her child became an Irish citizen and, therefore, an EU citizen. A court in England decided that she was, therefore, allowed to stay in Britain and could not be deported. And so we have todays referendum - rushed through in the space of a few weeks to close this "loophole" and I, for one, am very pissed off!

The government, the government I voted for, containing the political parties I've always voted for, have shown themselves up to be, quite frankly, a bunch of cowards. Every government rent-a-gob goes to the media talking about "common-sense" citizenship, ending "abuse" of the system, "bringing us into line" with the rest of Europe and ending "citizenship tourism". It's all quite sickening. The quotes don't change, the line doesn't change and I'm getting angrier as I type. Who cares about how the rest of Europe determines citizenship of their country. If our constitution causes them complications then let them legislate accordingly! Look at what we're comparing ourselves to. Look at the history of those countries. Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Britain - all are former colonial powers, all have immigration laws designed to let as few of their former colonial subjects into their countries as possible. As for Germany, Austria or Italy does anyone dare suggest we should take their advice or lead when it comes to dealing with non-nationals, or should I say "ethnic-minorities", hitherto entitled to citizenship by birthright?

For that is what we are being asked to do - change a constitution that states (and will continue to state) that we cherish ALL the children of Ireland, yet defines citizenship in bloodlines alone. Citizenship based on ethnicity, where an individual called Pedro Sanchez, living in Philadelphia, with one Irish Grandparent will now have more right to an Irish passport than a child born to foreign parents in the same hospital as me. That is fascism. I have voted No, but the referendum will pass and I despair that my compatriots are either that ignorant or that callous to have come to the conclusion that they should vote Yes. My pride in my country will die a bit today...
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