[Sinn Fein]

3rd July 2003

Government policy means up to 11,000 Irish children could face exile

Speaking at a protest this afternoon outside Leinster House against the deportation of Irish children and their parents Sinn Fein spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:

``The 1916 Proclamation called on us to cherish all the children of the nation equally. That sentiment and the vision it represents is more relevant today than ever. It is shameful that the prospect of full equality for Irish citizens is nearly as remote as it was when the Proclamation first appeared on Dublin streets.

``We are here today because more than 11,000 Irish children face either separation from their parents or effective exile as a result of this Government's policy. This Government is washing its hands of its obligation to uphold these children's basic constitutional rights, their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, and their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Ireland is a party.

``And why does this Government and this Minister feel they can do so? Because these children are not official ``Europeans''. Because in many cases, these children are of African, Asian, or Arab descent. Because, in the Government's view, these characteristics make these children somehow ``less Irish'' than other children born here. But they are wrong in this. These children have the same right to the full benefits of Irish citizenship by virtue of their birth on this island as do those whose ancestors were also Irish.

``What the Minister proposes to do is to create a two-tier citizenship, with a tier of second class citizens based on their race and ethnicity. As republicans, Sinn Fein cannot accept this. This is racist and it is wrong and we will fight it.

``Sinn Fein calls for a moratorium on deportations of Irish citizens and their parents - and also supports the demand for the immediate and unconditional granting of residency to the non-national parents of these Irish citizens. It is this Government's responsibility to provide a proper legislative remedy that will reaffirm and protect the equal rights of these citizens and allow them to remain in Ireland with their parents, and I call on the Minister to take such action on an urgent basis.'' ENDS

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