Emergency if citizenship laws not changed, warns McDowell

A CASE currently before the European Court of Justice could create an emergency in Ireland if our citizenship laws were not changed, Justice Minister Michael McDowell claimed yesterday.

Mr McDowell said that if, as likely, the Chen case succeeded, Ireland will be used by other immigrants to secure the right to stay in Ireland and the rest of the EU for themselves and their children.

“The Chen case could precipitate an emergency if it went unaddressed. It will be immediately apparent that the birth of a child in Ireland can in certain circumstances, not in every circumstances, guarantee the right to remain in the European Union not merely for that child but that child’s parents.” Speaking at the Government’s final campaign briefing on tomorrow’s citizenship referendum, he said: “the legal advice given to Ms Chen will be given to others.”

In the Chen case, a Chinese mother and her Belfast-born daughter are claiming the right to residency in any EU state on the basis of Irish citizenship law and EU free movement rights.

In a preliminary judgment, the European Court of Justice said she should have this right as long as they didn’t become a burden on the state.

“We in Ireland are responsible for our laws. We cannot and should not blame others who take advantage of opportunities we have opened up to them. It is up to us to change our laws if we find them unsatisfactory,” said Mr McDowell.

Aisling Reidy of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said the Chen case was a “red herring.” “If there was concern at EU level we would have seen it on the policy agenda.”

Ray Dooley of Children’s Rights Alliance said that if the referendum was passed, some children would not have equal status on birth with other children. “They will have to apply to be a citizen.”

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