Ireland: Joe Higgins condemns ‘Citizenship Referendum’

Socialist MP exposes use of race card by government

Socialist Party (cwi in Ireland) TD [member of the Dail] Joe Higgins is campaigning against the right wing Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats government’s plans to hold a referendum in Ireland to restrict citizenship rights. The referendum is most likely to be held on the same day as EU elections.

Joe Higgins condemns ’Citizenship Referendum’

The following comments were made by Joe Higgins in the Dail [Irish Parliament], on 27 April 2004:

Mr. J. Higgins: The referendum to restrict the citizenship rights of children born in this State is irredeemably compromised and discredited from the beginning by the utter dishonesty of the proposing Minister and the motivation behind it. Deputy McDowell began his campaign by claiming a crisis in the maternity hospitals, in other words beginning the campaign with the worst kind of scaremongering and the figures he gave today are equally unrevealing, for example there is no breakdown of the figure of 5,000 or so non-EU nationals who gave birth last year and their reasons for being in Ireland. Look at the meanness of the Government.

Thousands of women who are non-nationals staff our hospitals, as doctors, nurses and nurses’ aids, keeping them from collapse. Furthermore industry, from the hospitality sector to others, depends on the labours of non-national women who pay their taxes and contribute to the country. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform states the country needs the fruits of their labour and their taxes but woe betide them if they go into labour because their children are an inconvenience to the State and will be cast out.

The Minister referred to the pressure on the services in the maternity hospitals. I accept there is pressure, but what is the reason for it? In the 1950s and 1960s, 60,000 live births a year were recorded in the State. By the cash strapped 1980s the birth rate had risen to 72,000 live births a year, but in the early 2000s it dropped to 54,000 live births. Where are the difficulties? The Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats Government ripped out 3,000 beds in the 1980s, with the closure of maternity hospitals.

The reality is that any old reason will suffice to get the referendum show on the road because this debate has nothing to do with issue and everything to do with the base calculation by the Government. This completes the hat trick – rural housing and decentralisation of public services were the issues for the rural areas and immigration is the issue in urban areas which the Government believes will save the skins of its desperate candidates.

The Government believes it can cynically manipulate the Irish people by raising half truths and fears on immigration into getting the people to vote "Yes". The Taoiseach [Irish Prime Minister], the Tánaiste [Deputy Prime Minister] and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform know that candidates from their parties will stride around housing estates and streets whispering behind their hands that the reason for the housing and hospital crises is not the disastrous policies of this Government but immigrants.

The Minister’s hypocritically reasonable tone is a cover for the bigots in the Government parties and those outside, happily a minority. It is a cynical diversion from the real crises and problems.

However, I have absolute confidence in the majority of the Irish people. They may or may not vote in favour of the referendum, and I urge them not to do so, but even if they do, they will not, like sheep, vote for Government candidates.

I believe a large majority will vote in the European and local elections to punish this Government for its treachery and particularly for believing that it could cynically manipulate the people into voting for a cynical clutch of desperate politicians by virtue of putting this referendum before them.

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