News & Media

Bacik and Kelly launch 'Born Here Belong Here' petition, seek support for Labour Citizenship Bill

24 November 2020

Statement by Senator Ivana Bacik
Seanad Group Leader and Spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration

Today at Leinster House, Labour Party leader Alan Kelly and Party spokesperson on Children, Equality, Disability and Integration, Senator Ivana Bacik, launched a petition to support Labour’s Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Naturalisation of Minors Born in Ireland) Bill 2018, which is due back next week before the Seanad and which would provide a pathway to citizenship for children born in Ireland. 

The petition was launched as part of Labour’s Born Here Belong Here campaign, and the launch was attended by representatives from stakeholder groups and NGOs including the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, Deputy Kelly said: 

“Labour opposed the 27th Amendment referendum in 2004, which abolished the right to birthright citizenship. We have seen since 2004 that this referendum has had devastating consequences for a small number of children directly affected, like 9-year old Eric Zhi Ying Xu, an Irish-born boy from Bray whose family were faced with a deportation order in 2018.  

“Although Eric’s family were granted leave to remain following a public campaign to support them, we know there are other families and children whose legal status remains uncertain, and who live daily with the fear of deportation, even where they have known no other home but Ireland. Now we are proud to take a stand in support of children’s rights in putting forward this important Bill which would restore a pathway to citizenship for children born in Ireland.

"This is a very important issue for us. Last December we lost the chairperson of our youth wing Cormac Ó Braonáin. His number one political objective was to ensure that children born to people not from this State or without citizenship would have this pathway."

Senator Bacik said: 

“Our Labour Party Bill would make a modest but important legal change to enable children born in Ireland and who have lived here for three years to be considered for Irish citizenship, irrespective of the status of their parents. The Bill was passed through Second Stage in the Seanad by a majority of Senators, including Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, but was not supported by Fine Gael Senators. We are now bringing the Bill back before the Seanad in the first week of December - and we are calling on this new coalition Government to support it, in a spirit of solidarity and generosity.  

“Those children who face deportation despite being born here are our neighbours; they go to school with our own children; they have much to give to this country; and much is owed to them. They need our support in their bid for certainty and belonging. Just as successive Irish Governments have rightly argued for the rights of undocumented Irish migrants in the US, the Irish Government should act with generosity next week when our Bill comes back to the Seanad, to protect the rights of undocumented children in Ireland. Children who are born here belong here.” 

ENDS

TEXT OF PETITION: 

“We the undersigned support the ‘Born Here Belong Here’ campaign for greater generosity in Irish citizenship law. We urge the Government to support the Labour Party’s Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Naturalisation of Minors Born in Ireland) Bill 2018 when it comes back before the Seanad in the first week of December.” 

CONTEXT: 

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Naturalisation of Minors Born in Ireland) Bill 2018 would provide a pathway to citizenship for children who may face deportation, despite having been born in Ireland and resident here all their lives. 

The 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which passed in 2004, removed the automatic right to citizenship upon birth. Once it was passed, children born in Ireland lost the constitutional right to citizenship on birth; the amendment gives the Oireachtas power to legislate for routes to citizenship and naturalisation instead.  

Following the referendum, the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004 was passed which effectively removed any accessible route to citizenship for children born in Ireland. As a result, Irish citizenship law is now based on blood ties, not birthright. We do not need another referendum to reverse this. The 2004 Amendment gave the Oireachtas the power to legislate for more generous pathways to citizenship. 

The Labour Bill was passed through Second Stage by a majority of Senators on 21 November 2018; Senators from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Green Party supported it, although Fine Gael opposed it. The Bill is being brought back before the Seanad for ‘Committee Stage’ in the first week of December.