Flanagan rules out giving children born in Ireland to non-national parents automatic citizenship after three years

Update 5.35pm: Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has ruled out giving children born in Ireland to non-national parents automatic Irish citizenship after three years, claiming the move "amounts to bad law".

Mr Flanagan rejected the call after Labour said the 2004 citizenship referendum which removed the automatic citizenship right of children born in Ireland to foreign parents must be reversed after a series of child deportation controversies.

In a new bill set to go before the Seanad this evening, Labour will say the 2004 citizenship referendum - which was passed by 79.17% to 20.83% after a 59.95% turnout - is unfairly damaging people who have settled in Ireland.

Citing the recent case of nine-year-old Eric Zhi Ying Zhu from Bray, Co Wicklow, who faced deportation to China until Health Minister and local TD Simon Harris and others intervened and a separate case in Portlaoise, Labour senators Ivana Bacik and Aodhan O Riordain said urgent changes are now needed.

"We are seeking to regularise the position of children born in Ireland who have been living here for at least three years who are currently facing the prospect of deportation in some cases depending on the situation of their parents.

"This [the deportation threat] is despite the fact they have been born in Ireland, know no other home than Ireland and are effectively stateless if we decline to allow them to stay here," she said.

Ms Bacik said the existing system deals with cases in an "arbitrary" way and that the 2004 citizenship referendum needs to be altered.

Noting the fact the legislation resulting from the 2004 referendum made it "very clear it's open to the Oireachtas to legislate" on the issue, Ms Bacik said the subsequent 14 years have repeatedly highlighted problems in the law.

"It's very clear in the 2004 legislation that it's open to the Oireachtas to legislate, I don't expect anyone to raise that [any issue with changing the rules] because that [changing the rules] was specifically kept open in 2004.

"All we did in 2004 was remove the automatic birth right," she said.

In the 2004 citizenship referendum, the public voted to abolish the right to Irish citizenship by birth amid claims some people were coming to Ireland to give birth in order to gain citizenship via their child.

However, Ms Bacik stressed there was no evidence to prove this was taking place on a wide-scale basis.

Asked about the potential law change, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he "cannot accept" the reform as "there are issues in the bill which amount to bad law".

Mr Flanagan last month intervened in a case in his own Laois constituency to prevent a child from being deported for similar reasons as Eric Zhi Ying Zhu.

Earlier: Calls for automatic citizenship for children born in Ireland to non-national parents

The 2004 citizenship referendum which removed the right of children born in Ireland to non-national parents to have automatic Irish citizenship should be reversed in light of a series of recent high profile cases.

Labour demanded the move this morning in response to the recent case of nine-year-old Eric Zhi Ying Zhu from Bray, Co Wicklow, who was threatened with deportation to China despite being born in Ireland.

Eric Zhi Ying Zhu

Speaking to reporters before the party tables a new bill seeking to reform the 2004 referendum's impact in the Seanad tomorrow evening, party senator Ivana Bacik said under existing rules a child born in Ireland to non-national parents is not automatically considered Irish.

However, hitting out at the situation, Ms Bacik said the rule is putting children at risk of being made "effectively stateless" by the country - Ireland - in which they were born, and insist new rules "to regularise" the area for children living in Ireland for at least three years are needed.

"We are seeking to regularise the position of children born in Ireland who have been living here for at least three years who are currently facing the prospect of deportation in some cases depending on the situation of their parents.

This [the deportation threat] is despite the fact they have been born in Ireland, know no other home than Ireland and are effectively stateless if we decline to allow them to stay here.

Ms Bacik said the existing system deals with cases in an "arbitrary" way and that the 2004 referendum needs to be altered, a move she said the 2004 referendum legislation made it "very clear it's open to the Oireachtas to legislate" on.

"It's very clear in the 2004 legislation that it's open to the Oireachtas to legislate, I don't expect anyone to raise that [any issue with changing the rules] because that [changing the rules] was specifically kept open in 2004.

"All we did in 2004 was remove the automatic birthright," she said.

In the 2004 citizenship referendum, the public voted by 79.17% to 20.83% after a 59.95% turnout to abolish the right to Irish citizenship by birth amid claims some people were coming to Ireland to give birth in order to gain citizenship via their child.

However, Ms Bacik stressed there was no evidence to prove this was taking place on a wide-scale basis.

Speaking beside Ms Bacik, fellow Labour senator Aodhan O Riordain cited the case of Eric Zhi Ying Zhu from Bray, Co Wicklow, by noting the Government's support for the nine-year-old and a separate case in Portlaoise, saying:

"I'm quite sure with the goodwill Health Minister Simon Harris showed in Wicklow and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in Portlaoise, they will be in a position to support it [the Labour bill]."

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