June 16, 2004


Hard Right Nativism: Ireland's Citizenship Vote (JIM DAVIS, June 14, 2004, Counterpunch)

Last Friday Ireland went to the Polls to elect local councilors, members of the European Parliament and to decide on an amendment to the constitution which would strip some Irish born children of their right to Irish Citizenship. The referendum is the culmination of the state's efforts to limit the rights of asylum seekers and refugees who have arrived on the Island in increasing numbers during the economic boom there over the last 10 years. The referendum was passed by a landslide with 80% of voters approving the new restrictions in a big victory for hard right nativism.

Initially the referendum was proposed by the Minister For Justice, Michael McDowell, as a way of defending Irish maternity hospitals which were, he argued, overwhelmed by foreigners arriving to give birth within the EU. Under the old rules where parents could claim residency rights in the country by virtue of their children's citizenship, Ireland was out of step with the rest of the EU, or so the argument went until the facts got in the way. While the current right wing coalition government has been plotting some sort of referendum on this matter for years, Friday's vote was only announced in March. McDowell initially argued that the Masters of the Maternity hospitals had plead for 'something' to be done about the hordes of pregnant refugees packing the hospitals. The doctors in question quickly distanced themselves from such claims, realizing perhaps they were being played in a pretty transparent electoral stunt and statistical fraud.

Pro amendment arguments referred to an exploding birth rate and 10% of births being to non nationals. The common inference was that this figure was the number of frauds flying into Dublin heavily pregnant solely to claim an Irish passport. But as the numbers were crunched it emerged that fewer than 1% of last years newborns actually fell into this category. McDowell's imperative then morphed into the more abstract notion of protecting the "integrity of Irish citizenship". "I'm not pinning my hat on the issue of statistics from maternity hospitals. Citizenship is important. It is not something which is just given out as a little token, or a useful thing to people with no connection with our State. It imposes on people who are Irish citizens duties of loyalty and fidelity to the nation-state." Considering that a South African (or anyone else) with an Irish Grandmother is entitled to an Irish passport without ever setting foot in the country, this is surely a bizarre argument with which to go amending the constitution. It has essentially introduced a biological qualifier into the notion of Irishness, something that probably does put Ireland closer in line with some of its European neighbours, at least those with blood requirements for being part of the volk.

Most of the non nationals who will now see their future children lose their right to citizenship are in fact working residents of the country filling important roles in all sectors of the economy and society. For free market ideologues like McDowell this abundant source of cheap labour is central to Irelands continued economic success. Yet, the amendment will help obstruct their full integration into Irish society.

Can there be a more illustrative irony than the Irish hating immigrants?

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 16, 2004 5:46 PM

I can think of one: right-wing American bloggers citing as authorities America-hating Counterpunch writers.

Posted by: Paul Cella at June 16, 2004 5:55 PM

Just because you've been stomped on in the past doesn't mean you're not capable of stomping on the next group that comes along. I can think of a few reasons why it'd make you more capable and more likely...

Posted by: Ken at June 18, 2004 7:54 PM