The day Ireland showed the world what racism looks like

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Elaine Edwards’ brilliant shot of a fantastic piece of vandalism of “Ireland for the Irish” graffiti.

With the Immigrant Council of Ireland reporting an 85% increase in racist incidents in the past year, you might be forgiven for assuming that racism in Ireland is exclusively the result of these hard times. Not so.

I have written before about this issue and one thing I regret not mentioning is what I think was a shameful act of racism in Ireland. On the 11th of June 2004, we passed the 27th Amendment to Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Constitution of Ireland. We changed our Constitution to ensure that henceforth a child born on the island of Ireland is not necessarily Irish, if that child’s parents are not Irish. “Cherish all the children of the nation equally“? Yeah, right.

“Birth tourism”, you see. Oh they were teleporting in here, so they were, caravan-trains of them. Foreigners. Blacks. Eleven months pregnant, some of them, just to be sure the child would be born here and sure then they’d all be able to stay here. Millions of them Joe. Millions. I mean where would you be then? It wouldn’t be Ireland, would it? Oh I’ve nothing against them myself mind. But.

Credit where it’s due: The Labour Party, the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party all opposed the referendum.

Take a bow, Fianna Fáil, the Sleeveens of Destiny and the party of the Bert. Take a bow, the ghosts of the Progressive Democrats, howling in electoral wastelands as desolate as your own miserable souls. Take a bow Fine Gael, the party of stout shopkeepers and big farmers, still led by the same man who backed this referendum.

I know I’m a sentimentalist and I’m sure Michael McDowell, the then-justice minister and the man whose brainchild this was, would claim to know the minds of people like his grandfather better than I would, but my grandfather fought for Irish Independence too and I honestly believe the men and women of 1916 would have shot anyone claiming that a child born in Ireland is not Irish.

But what do I know? Turnout in that referendum was an impressive 60% and we voted to pass the amendment by an overwhelming 80%.

Take a bow, Ireland.

Donal O’Keeffe

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