Thursday, October 18, 2007

2004 Citizenship Referendum

Speaking at a conference on race and immigration hosted by the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Mary Robinson spoke aptly about concerns she holds over the 2004 Citizenship Referendum. Feeling it was rushed into without due consideration, she also expressed concerns about our overall attitude to the issue of immigration, highlighting the issue of schooling and the EU Commissions reporting on our failure to tackle issues of racial intolerance. The impetus behind this referendum was narrow minded. I felt it had a very questionable motive of tapping into unsettling biases in the Irish population that need to be addressed.

This referendum as far as I am concerned fed on and encouraged these biases. The motive for the referendum stemmed from inconclusive evidence and the idea that our maternity hospitals were overloaded with pregnant asylum seekers. We didn’t know then and we don’t know the level of immigration into Ireland, and however much the number inflates, and impacts on the make up of Irish society that our first reaction is to seek to deny human rights to these individuals is a poor testament to the decision making of policy makers and the public opinion they feel they want to satisfy.

My understanding is that a significant number of children born in this country, no longer entitled to be termed citizens, could be denied the rights accorded to citizens by the Constitution. How is this not discrimination? Where have the legislative provisions been made to protect the vulnerable people living on the island? Our Constitution was disrespected, used as nothing more than a crowd pleasing tool, an add on to a troubled second go at Nice, set to please those who vote, not those who struggle.

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