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Cowen rounds on 'emotive' Left

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Brian Cowen said yesterday that many on the Left were "seeking to outdo one another in invective" in relation to the citizenship referendum.

And, he said, "to use a current phrase, they are congenitally incapable of dealing with this issue without losing their head".

Singling out Labour Euro candidates Proinsias de Rossa and Brendan Ryan, as well as Sinn Fein's Aengus O Snodaigh, for criticism, the minister accused them of "a cynical and potentially incendiary play on sentiment.

"It is the deepest irony that those who would profess to be the most concerned about human rights have been the first and, to date, the only ones who have employed the language of race," said Mr Cowen.

The minister said it was "deeply regrettable" that many of those opposed to the referendum had addressed themselves to virtually every issue except the one that was being put to the people.

Mr Cowen said the proposal before the voters was not about "closing doors or turning our backs on anyone" but was about "sensibly taking account of the fact that Ireland alone is the only country in the EU that grants an automatic right to citizenship at birth, irrespective of whether or not the parents actually have any connection with the country."

The referendum, he said, was about recognising and taking account of the reality that Ireland's citizenship laws needed to be modified.

Among reasons to vote Yes he listed were to protect Irish citizenship by ensuring that its automatic right was not exploited by people who had no connection with Ireland and to end the incentive for pregnant women to put themselves and their unborn children at risk by travelling here from abroad just before the birth.

It was also to stop people using a loophole in the law to get around immigration controls in 24 other EU States and to maintain the right to Irish citizenship of children born to at least one Irish parent, North or South.

It would allow new laws to ensure that citizenship was only available to children born to two non-national parents if one of the parents had lived here for three years before the birth.

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