Catholic Bishops’ Statement on Citizenship Referendum

04 Jun 2004


4 JUNE 2004


The Standing Committee of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has
considered the referendum to amend article 9 of the Constitution
regarding the constitutional right of people born in the island of
Ireland to Irish citizenship.

This subject is one with serious moral and social, as well as legal,
implications and it is important that voters are fully informed of
the implications and are aware of the consequences of their choice.

Above all, it is important to ensure that all people who find themselves
in Ireland, children and adults, whether citizens or not, enjoy full
protection of their fundamental human rights, without discrimination
on the basis of race or origin. As human beings, they possess such
rights independently of citizenship. This must always be the clear
hallmark of the future constitutional and legal framework. Any vote
cast with the intention of weakening or denying this principle would
be morally wrong.

The Constitution defines the fundamental ethos of the State. Changing
the Constitution is always a serious matter. The bishops, therefore
encourage all to exercise their democratic right and duty through taking
part actively and responsibly in the debate and through voting.

While recognising that the referendum has been called within the legal
parameters established by the Constitution, it could be argued with
some justification that a wider process of public consultation might
have led to the possibility of a broader consensus on the way to
address the serious issues that are at the heart of the debate.

Many feel that in the current vibrant Irish economic climate, we
should be offering greater hospitality and security to people of
different national and racial backgrounds who come to our shores.
Irish people have historically benefited much from the hospitality
of other nations. Such people believe that leaving the current
constitutional position unchanged would be an important sign in
this direction.

Others, while still desiring a more welcoming approach to immigrants,
feel that the better path is to prudently regulate immigration and
citizenship through appropriate norms and legislation, in accordance
with international law. They are especially concerned to avoid
exploitation or trafficking of persons.

The referendum renders even more urgent the provision of a
comprehensive, fair and transparent immigration policy. This
is an important challenge to Ireland today. Without such a
policy there is a real risk that the rights of refugees and
the fundamentally important legal institution of asylum will
be undermined.


Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)