Constructive engagement on Labour Citizenship Bill, Born Here Belong Here Campaign

26 March 2021

Holding the Born Here Belong Here frame

At 2pm today, Friday 26th March 2021, the ‘Committee Stage’ debate on Labour’s Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Naturalisation of Minors Born in Ireland) Bill 2018 was adjourned without a vote following agreement with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and her officials on the implementation of certain elements of the Bill.

Speaking after the adjournment of the debate, Labour Seanad Group Leader and Spokesperson for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Senator Ivana Bacik said,

“I would like to thank Minister McEntee for having engaged constructively with me and my Labour Party colleagues over recent months on this important legislation. We welcome her commitment to reduce the required period of residence from the current five years to three years in order for a child born in Ireland to apply for citizenship. This is a very welcome and progressive development. I look forward to engaging further with her on this issue and on other issues addressed in my Bill, particularly on the areas of reckonable residence and of decoupling the status of children from that of their parents for the purpose of applying for citizenship. I will also continue to work on steps to explicitly include provision in our citizenship laws for undocumented children, children of parents who live in Ireland on a student visa and children in the asylum system. During the debate, Minister McEntee gave details of the Government’s regularisation scheme for long-term undocumented migrants in Ireland; this initiative is welcome but we in Labour will continue to campaign for the sort of structural change that our Bill would have brought about.

“It was the case of young Eric Xue, a nine-year-old boy from Bray in County Wicklow who was born and had lived all his life in Ireland but whose family were then threatened with deportation, which brought this important issue to the fore for us when we introduced our Bill in 2018. His classmates in Saint Cronan’s National School in Bray organised a successful campaign to enable Eric and his family to stay in Ireland. We in Labour remain concerned that children like Eric, whose case inspired us to bring forward this Bill in the first place, would not currently be included in the scheme proposed by Minister McEntee. I reiterate my calls for the implementation of all measures set out in Labour’s Bill.

“The Labour Party will continue to support Labour Youth’s Born Here Belong Here campaign for the full reversal of the effects of the 2004 Citizenship Referendum and the restoration of citizenship by birth-right for all children born in Ireland. Recent polling shows that as many as 70% of people in Ireland support such an initiative, which is no surprise, given our own history of emigration and the large Irish diaspora.

“I thank organisations, including the Migrant Rights Centre, the Immigrant Council, the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, the Children’s Rights Alliance and others for the crucial support and advice they offered on the Bill; and I look forward to continuing to work with them on the broader campaign for the rights of migrants and ethnic minorities in Ireland.

“As we mark this milestone in the Born Here Belong Here campaign for greater citizenship rights for children born in Ireland, we remember our friend and comrade, Cormac Ó Braonáin, who died in December 2019 at just nineteen years of age. He and I spoke many times about this Bill and I commend Labour Youth for continuing his legacy by bringing so much energy and enthusiasm to their Born Here Belong Here campaign. I was heartened to hear Minister McEntee, Leas-Cathaoirleach O’Reilly and other Senators joining me in commemorating him in the chamber today. I would also like to pay tribute to Cormac’s family, Eva, Lugh, M and Dimphne, whose support during this campaign was of huge help to us.

“Labour will continue to work constructively in opposition to bring about further progressive change through Private Members’ legislation.”