Hard to see racism in amendment

UNDOUBTEDLY racists will vote for the proposed amendment to end the automatic right of everyone born in the Island of Ireland to Irish citizenship. That doesn’t necessarily make the amendment racist.

There is a lot of evidence that pregnant women are coming to Ireland in order that their children will have Irish citizenship. This is very understandable, even commendable. They are doing their best for their children by giving them the option to live in Ireland and the EU in their adulthood.

Their determination has not been diminished by the Supreme Court judgement that simply having an Irish child does not give parents a right to remain in Ireland. That should be noted by those who say that migrants are motivated by benefit greed. It shows that these mothers are not even thinking of themselves.

For all that, it is not a legitimate form of migration. It’s a loophole, simple as that. It makes Ireland uniquely attractive among the EU countries so that the intention may not even be that the new Irish citizen may ever set foot in Ireland.

I think that it is reasonable to plug this loophole even if their are attendant dangers.

One of those dangers is that racists might be emboldened by things said during the campaign. Another is that by highlighting the practice in question that all migrants will have their reputations tarnished.

But those accusations could be made about any immigration law. It would be better to abolish all migration restraints than keep a loophole which brings all migration into disrepute, which costs a fortune and which puts pressure on health services.

A lot will depend on the wording of the amendment and on the new legislation which will be brought in in its aftermath. How long will people have to live in Ireland before they will qualify? Will we be faced with the appaling situation that Irish schoolchildren born and bred in Ireland will be second-class citizens (i.e. not citizens at all). At the same time people born outside Ireland whose granny left these shores a hundred years ago will be able to claim citizenship.

A lot of care will be needed so that the debate won’t turn ugly. In principle, though, there is nothing wrong with this amendment.

Less anecdotes and more facts, please

A LOT of figures have been bandied about in the furore over ‘citizen tourism’.

To date all we seem to know is that a couple of thousand babies are born to non-nationals every year. That actually doesn’t tell us a huge amount. A lot of young non-nationals live in Ireland. They arrived here from other EU countries and with work permits. These people are well entitled to have children here and couldn’t be accused of ‘citizen tourism’. 

I’m a bit anxious that Minister McDowell is quoting broad figures and estimates. Either he knows how many pregnant women are coming to Ireland to gain citizenship for their babies or he doesn’t know. He should really get his facts right first.