Government will not support Bill on citizenship for all Irish-born children

Labour says proposal would help those potentially facing deportation depending on status of parents

The Government will not support a Labour Party Bill which would give citizenship rights to children of non-national parents if they are born in Ireland and have lived here for more than three years.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the proposals amounted to “bad law” and described it as “a knee-jerk reaction”. However, he said he would be “instituting a process of consultation on some of the issues raised”.

Labour senators Ivana Bacik and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin had sought Government support for the Bill, which is to be debated in the Seanad on Wednesday.

The Bill would amend the current citizenship laws to enable children who are born in Ireland and who have lived here for at least three years to be considered for citizenship as an independent applicant, irrespective of the status of their parents.


The proposal followed the recent case of a Co Wicklow schoolboy Eric Zhi Ying Xue(9), who although born in Ireland, is not a citizen and had been facing deportation.

Minister for Health Simon Harris, who represents Wicklow, made representations to Mr Flanagan’s department on his behalf and last month that he had received “good news” that Eric did not face imminent deportation.


In a referendum in 2004, 79 per cent of the public voted against an automatic entitlement to citizenship for those born on the island. However, Labour said another referendum would not be needed to give certain children the right to remain in Ireland regardless of the status of their parents.

“Our Bill would seek to regularise the position of children born in Ireland who have been resident here for at least three years and who are currently potentially facing deportation in some cases depending on the status of their parents,” said Ms Bacik.

“We have seen some recent cases where children have been treated in this unjust way despite the fact that they have been born in Ireland, they know no other home and they are effectively stateless if we do not give them permission to remain here.”

She added: “We have seen these cases being dealt with in an arbitrary way on the basis of the discretion of the minister, and we say that is not good enough and it has led to injustice in specific cases.

“We do need to do something in our law to regularise the position of a small number of children to whom this applies.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times