A group of UCD students led by Cian O’Farrell have launched a campaign to Repeal the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. The 27th amendment abolished the right to Irish citizenship by birth and was introduced following a referendum in 2004. O’Farrell calls the amendment “immoral, nonsensical and racist” and says that the law disproportionately affects vulnerable migrant children, especially babies born in Direct Provision.
This UCD student group highlights the case of Eric Zhi Ying Xue as a huge contributing factor to their belief that the 27th amendment needs to be repealed. Eric Zhi Ying Xue is a nine-year-old boy who was born in Ireland and is now facing deportation back to China. He does not have Irish citizenship despite being born here and never living anywhere else. He would be deported back to China because his mother has Chinese citizenship, despite the fact that he does not have Chinese citizenship himself.
The College Tribune spoke to O’Farrell who recognises that “when the 27th amendment was first implemented it was difficult to see the consequences of the pain it would cause, but we believe that as it continues to bring about cases such as 9-year-old Eric the public will eventually seek for a repeal.”
Last Friday, Minister Flanagan told RTE that he voted against the amendment in the 2004 referendum, but as Minister, he has “no immediate plans” to address a possible change to the 27th Amendment. Yet this group of UCD students plan to continue to campaign for a change to this citizenship law. O’Farrell would love for UCD students to embrace the campaign saying, “The SU has said before that they would like to get more involved in Direct Provision, I understand it can be difficult but this is a real opportunity to get involved with something that directly affects asylum seekers.”
The protest against the deportation of Eric Zhi Ying Xue followed the successful protest against the deportation of Offaly secondary school student Nonso Muojeke. DCU students have also launched a campaign called ‘Save Our Sheperd’ to ask Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to halt the deportation of student Shepherd Machaya. Unlike Eric, neither Nonso nor Shepherd were born in Ireland, but during their time as asylum seekers, both had significantly integrated into the Irish education system, before their refugee status was denied. In December 2017, the minimum wait time for asylum seekers to receive a decision on their refugee status was twenty months.
The referendum passed with 79% of the electorate voting to enact the amendment, but the conversation on immigration and citizenship has shifted dramatically in the last fourteen years.
Since 2004, Irish citizenship can be obtained through your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents being Irish citizens or legal residents at the time of your birth, through marriage or through naturalisation.
UCD students began a similar campaign last semester to boycott Aramark food services on campus because of their work within Direct Provision. Last UCD was awarded University of Sanctuary status and it is understood that there are a very small number of refugees and asylum seekers studying at UCD.
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor