Referendum on citizenship and birth

Madam, - Any non-racist rationale for the Government's citizenship referendum must rest on the number of births to non-national…

Madam, - Any non-racist rationale for the Government's citizenship referendum must rest on the number of births to non-national parents.

At paragraph 12 of its information note, the Government states that, whereas the first six months of 2003 saw 2,816 births to non-nationals in the three Dublin maternity hospitals, the total figure for 2003 was 4,824.

This is a rather oblique way of saying that between the first and second half of 2003, there was a 29 per cent fall in the number of births to non-nationals.

The information note does not define a birth to a non-national. It appears to include births to a non-national mother and an Irish father. The children of such parents would still be constitutionally entitled to citizenship under the Government's proposal. It certainly includes births to nationals of other EU member-states. (According to the 2002 census, 70 per cent of non-nationals living here were born in the EU; this percentage can only have been increased by the accession of 10 new states, particularly given the Government's own employment policy of seeking migrant workers from those states.)


It therefore appears that the vast majority of children born to non-nationals will either be unaffected by this referendum proposal or in any event will be entitled to remain here under EU law.

This fundamental change to our Constitution has not been justified. We should not subordinate the place of birth entitlement to citizenship to the Government's preferred blood-line entitlement. - Yours, etc.,

ORAN DOYLE, Law Library, Dublin 7.

Madam, - In legal matters common sense seems so often absent.

Logic would suggest that a child born anywhere in the world would take the nationality of its parents or parent. Application for a change of nationality could be made subsequently after a suitable period, if fitting.

The geographical location of the birth is irrelevant. I was born in Wales but am not Welsh, and my sister who was born in Burma is certainly not Burmese. - Yours, etc.,

J.S. GLENDINNING, Dromderrig, Kinsale, Co Cork.

Madam, Fintan O'Toole, in his column "They made us what we are" (Opinion, May 25th), has put the argument against the amendment with an elegant simplicity. - Yours, etc.,

KENNEDY P. O'BRIEN, SJ, Gonzaga College, Sandford Road, Dublin 6.

Madam, - The dishonesty of Michael McDowell and his Fianna Fáil allies in justifying their hastily contrived amendment is breathtaking.

They say it is necessary to "close a loophole" but, as Bernard Carroll has pointed out (Letters, May 24th), to change the fundamental basis of our citizenship law is far from closing a loophole - it is substituting an entirely new philosophy.

Instead of basing citizenship on the objective, fair and equal criterion of place of birth, we are being asked to change to a concept of citizenship based on bloodline, on happenstance of parentage.

If the amendment is passed, two children born side by side in an Irish hospital are no longer to be cherished equally. For reasons of common sense and common decency, we should reject this amendment. - Yours, etc.,

IVANA BACIK, Labour Party, Ely Place, Dublin 2.

Madam, - Vincent Browne, in returning again to the issue of whether or not we need to close the anomalous constitutional loophole in our citizenship laws, continues to introduce utterly vacuous inanities into the debate (Opinion, May 26th).

To suggest that obviously persecuted citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo will no longer be able to acquire citizenship for their as yet unborn children if the citizenship referendum is carried is Machavellian in the extreme.

Congolese - and all others genuinely fleeing persecution - will remain enabled both to seek asylum in this country, in the first instance, and consequently to achieve Irish and EU citizenship for all such children born on this island, after the proposed three-year authorising period has elapsed.

Mr Browne seems to have lost sight of what the asylum process is meant to achieve: a safe refuge, rather than unrestricted citizenship for anyone who decides to have a baby on our shores, irrespective of the circumstance. - Yours, etc.,

EOIN McMAHON, Northumberland Road, Dublin 4.