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8 April 2004 Edition

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Malignant referendum decision

The Fianna Fáil/PD Government's decision to hold the referendum on citizenship on the same day as the Local and European elections has virtually guaranteed that the issue of race will pollute the election debate.

The parties are scapegoating immigrants and refugees to distract attention from their wretched record of incompetence and neglect in public services.

When details of this referendum were announced Labour and Fine Gael both said that it should not be held on 11 June. They must now stand by that position. They must not support Minister McDowell by agreeing to the recall of the Dáil a week early simply so that this legislation can be forced through.

There is a burden of responsibility on the leaders of both those parties to stand up to McDowell and allow for a debate that could be informed and held away from the party political rhetoric of an election campaign.

While the text of the proposed wording is not yet public, it is clear that the proposal is contrary to the Good Friday Agreement, which states that it is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland to be part of the Irish nation.

What implications does this proposal have for the Good Friday Agreement? For the position of Irish citizens born in the Six Counties?

The uncertainty about this exists in large part because the government failed to bring this proposal to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, or to engage with civil society, with the other political parties, with immigrant and refugee groups.

So much for Mary Harney's claims that the decision was taken after widespread consultation.

Instead, with the trademark overbearing arrogance this government is famous for, it has decided to tack it on to the elections with the minimum of debate about such a fundamentally important matter as citizenship.

The coalition has consistently failed to address the issue of immigration in a fair and open manner. Now they are targeting asylum seekers, believing that this is another group they can victimise without fear and get away with it.

People tempted to back this referendum in the hope of seeing the burden on services decrease should beware. If this referendum is passed when you wake up the morning after you will still have a two-tier health system and rat infested primary schools in a state of collapse and no more than an outside chance of ever getting housing. The only thing that will change is the government won't be able to blame immigrants for it.

Sinn Féin is fundamentally opposed to the referendum taking place on 11 June and will do all it can to stop race becoming an issue. Republicans will oppose this referendum and work with like-minded parties and organisations to defeat it.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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