27 May 2004 Edition

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"This Referendum is about the rights of children": Gerry Adams - Human Rights Commission slams government referendum


Daithi Doolan, Mary Lou McDonald, Mitchel McLaughlin and AengusÓ Snodaigh at the launch of Sinn Féin's campaign for a No vote

Daithi Doolan, Mary Lou McDonald, Mitchel McLaughlin and Aengus Ó Snodaigh at the launch of Sinn Féin's campaign for a No vote

The Citizenship referendum "is about the rights of Children," said Gerry Adams at Monday's launch of the party's European election campaign. "If this is passed," he said, "two children born in the same ward on the same day could be deemed to have different constitutional rights."

The proposed referendum is in direct contravention of the very ethos of the 1937 Constitution, of 1916 and the Proclamation, to "cherish all the children of the nation equally".

Minister McDowell declares his referendum is 'simply closing a loophole'.

On Tuesday, the Human Rights Commission delivered a damning indictment of the government-proposed referendum. Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, points out that the report "confirms my contention that the government has deceived the public in order to muscle through its ill-conceived and racist referendum."

The Commission's report found that Minister McDowell's so-called facts and 'evidence' were not adequately researched or analysed, that the government should have consulted with other parties to the Good Friday Agreement on the impact of the referendum on the Agreement.

Most damning of all, the Commission concluded that the referendum seriously impacted on the constitutional rights and the Government's obligations under The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the state ratified in September 1992. Article 2 of the Convention explicitly declares "that all the rights guaranteed by the Convention must be available to all children without discrimination of any kind".

This was the central point taken up at a press conference, also on Tuesday, by the Children's Rights Alliance (CRA), a coalition of 78 NGOs concerned with the rights and welfare of children in Ireland.

The CRA's Ray Dooley, calling for a No vote in the referendum, cut through so much of the obfuscation and deliberately inspired confusion over the referendum. "We can speculate about its possible consequences on immigration levels and other matters, but what we do know for certain is that, if passed, it will place some children in a separate class, and those children will not have the same status and rights as other children," he said.

A fact sheet from the CRA covers the succession of arguments, which have changed by the day, that Minister McDowell has proposed in support of his referendum. The report deals conclusively with the lot and dismisses them as "exaggerations, misleading or based on little or no evidence, other than the anecdotal".

Last week, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice gave an opinion that Catherine Chen, who was born in Belfast, had the right to remain in Britain and that Mrs Chen, her mother, had the right to remain with her. Under the Good Friday Agreement,um is not justified by the Chen case. Nor does the referendum have any bearing on the issue of the deportation of non-nationals and their children, which the Supreme Court has allowed McDowell to continue to push.

But what government party canvassers are saying at the doors, (and to their shame, Fine Gael party canvassers too), that there are "too many non-nationals coming here and abusing this country", bears no relation to the facts. It is no more or less than out and out racism.

Two party canvassers, from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, came to this reporter's door this very evening with just that message. It is a scandalous assertion, based on ignorance and deliberate confusion of the facts, in breach of the undertakings given by these parties in signing up to the declaration not to indulge in racism in election campaigns.

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