Rally challenges citizenship restrictions

‘Families have been completely split up,’ says Trinity professor

A large crowd gathered outside Leinster House yesterday afternoon to mark the 10th anniversary of the Irish citizenship referendum.

The referendum, which was passed in June 2004, means that those born on the island of Ireland do not have the constitutional right to be Irish citizens unless one of their parents is an Irish citizen or is entitled to be an Irish citizen.

Ronit Lentin, associate professor at the department of sociology in Trinity College Dublin, who helped organise the rally, said Ireland must be reminded of the children who had been deprived of their citizenship over the past decade. "It has meant family reunification was not allowed," she said. "Families have been completely split up."

Prof Lentin said that many of the families affected by the amendment to the Constitution had ended up “lingering” in the “horrific” conditions of direct provision centres.


“Very often they are completely and utterly ostracised, particularly women.”

“There’s very little appetite for doing anything in favour of migrants – they’re hidden from view. Nobody tends to speak today about migration and the consequences, particularly asylum seekers.”

There are 4,278 asylum seekers living in direct provision centres across the State. Of these, 1,590 are children. The weekly allowance for those living in these centres is €19.10 per week with an extra €9.60 for children.

Residents are not allowed to cook or have food in their own rooms, while all asylum seekers in the State are prohibited from working.

Nomaxabiso Maye from South Africa lived in direct provision for 3½ years. She compared life in the centre to living under the apartheid regime.

“I always compare and contrast the asylum system with the one of the apartheid system in South Africa, and it seems to be the same,” she said.

“Even worse than the same because people in South Africa worked during the apartheid system; even though they earned peanuts, they worked.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast