Irish citizens to lose their UK vote?

Lord Goldsmith’s paper on British Citizenship has excited a lot of comment in Britain. Michael White just wonders, if ain’t broke, why fix it? Chicken Yoghurt just isn’t keen on Patriotism of any description. The CEP blog is not impressed either, saying the proposals are skewed towards making the English buy into Britishness and everyone else doing what they like. Rick MUir reckons the whole furore is obscuring the fact that there is a need for more ceremony. But the real kicker, for the Irish at least, his is proposal to bring down the curtain on Republic of Ireland nationals’ right to vote in Westminster elections. That would mean that were Catriona Ruane, for instance, to stand for election in South Down, she could not vote for herself. Gerry Adams could, since although presumably an Irish citizen he was born inside the UK and therefore would remain legally entitled to vote for himself in West Belfast.

If anything the consequences in Northern Ireland would be marginal. But in Britain, the largest single source of people born outside the UK come from the Republic: about 70,000 more Republic of Ireland-born people (537,100) than Indian-born (467,600). That’s a big change. And not a decision any one in the Labour Party would take lightly (since the Irish in Britain are a still prominent group amongst its own party activists).

Ciaran has more of the detail and explores the historic ambiguity of the relationship between the UK and the Republic.

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  • Mark Fartlighter

    I suppose it could be argued that you cant have it every way, that is is a pretty pointless vore and one could also say that that as no-one in Northern Ireland can vote for any party that would ever be in a position of power.

    That said, presumably hundreds of thousands of nationalists could no longer vote in westminister elections.

    A propaganda victory never before achieved methinks.

  • willowfield

    That said, presumably hundreds of thousands of nationalists could no longer vote in westminister elections.

    How do you work that out?

  • Mark Fartlighter

    Willowfield,

    Made an error.

  • Bernard Dunne

    I was waiting for a thread like this to bring up two things that slugger has missed.

    1) Can you imagine a Pledge to Queen and country in the North of crapland.

    This debate will descend into Unionists telling Nationalist that they MUST take the pledge.
    And Nationalists Telling Unionist No bucking way

    2) The second point I wanted to bring up was did anyone see that DUP guy on Questions and Answers on Monday night, he was asked about Pay for Play in the GAA and he made a complete arse of himself by ranting off topic about how offensive the GAA is to his community, the whole panel were looking at him as if he was from a different planet and then Bowman said sure The BBC would not publish GAA results for 35 years because it was played on a Sabbath. The DUP lad retorted sure that was in the past ! Classic TV viewing.

  • Rory

    I wondered why we had not had any comment on Lord Goldsmith’s proposals which were widely discussed on the radio throughout yesterday and the focus of much comment in the press. I had missed this proposal on voting rights but I would not give it too much thought as I simply do not believe that it will wash and anyway I tend to agree with Mark above and believe anyway that voting in British general elections has become so meaningless and discredited by the amorphous sameness of the big-business parties that are all that is available (allowed to be available?) that most people here simply do not bother and laugh at the very idea that they should be so foolish as to pretend that it offered them a choice.

    Nor do I think that Goldsmith’s proposals on a ceremony to swear allegience to the state and the monarch will go much further either although part of me hopes that I am wrong as if it did succeed it would be such fun to witness the contempt with which I expect it would be treated.

    Asked on Radio 4 yesterday if he thought that Scots and Welsh and republicans should be required to make such a pledge he replied “Yes”.
    “What even republicans would be expected to swear an oath of allegience to a monarchy?” asked the incredulous interviewer (James Naughtie, for it was he) – “Yes, of course” replied the good lord totally unfazed by the apparent ridiculousness of his proposal.

    However he was at pains to point out that his proposals would not apply to Northern Ireland which he claimed was a special case and on that at least the noble lord got it absolutely right. We sure is, baby!

  • George

    Mick,
    your assertion in your blog in the Guardian that Goldsmith’s position is understandable as British nationals can’t vote in Dáil elections is wrong.

    The Irish Constitution was altered by referendum over a decade ago to allow British nationals to vote in Dáil elections.

  • George

    Also Mick,
    on the point of naturalisation of the Irish in Britain, I think you can discount that as having a huge effect on the figures you quote.

    Approximately 100 Irish-born people a year apply for naturalised British citizenship in GB.

    However, the Irish-born population has dropped by over 100,000 in the last decade. The reason the number of Irish citizens is dropping so fast is simply because they are leaving the UK in their droves and returning home.

  • willowfield

    Lord Goldsmith doesn’t understand the Belfast Agreement or Southern Irish citizenship law.

    People born in Northern Ireland have been entitled to Southern Irish citizenship for over 50 years. The Belfast Agreement did not change this: it merely restated it.

    People born in Northern Ireland are also – rather obviously – UK citizens on the same basis as anyone born anywhere else in the UK.

    So anyone from Northern Ireland who takes up his right to Southern Irish citizen remains a UK citizen: he attains dual citizenship.

    Were the right of Southern Irish citizens to vote in UK general elections removed, that would not affect people from Northern Ireland, since such people remain UK citizens and therefore would retain their right to vote.

    It would NOT therefore “be necessary to distinguish this group of Irish citizens [i.e. those born in Northern Ireland] from others”!

  • George

    Just checked, British citizens have actually been able to vote in Dáil elections since 1984, so it’s over two decades ago.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninth_Amendment_of_the_Constitution_of_Ireland

  • Reader

    George: The reason the number of Irish citizens is dropping so fast is simply because they are leaving the UK in their droves and returning home.
    Or dying. There was a massive peak in migration in the 1950s, wasn’t there? And of course, demographic peak or not, they aren’t being replaced by new migrants the way they used to be, so the numbers would also fall for that reason.

  • Greenflag

    ‘It is hereby declared that, notwithstanding that the Republic of Ireland is not part of His Majesty’s dominions, the Republic of Ireland is not a foreign country for the purposes of any law in force in any part of the United Kingdom or in any colony, protectorate or United Kingdom trust territory

    Unionist leaders including the now retiring Paisley have ‘revelled’ in remarking as often as they could that the Republic is a ‘foreign’country’ . I guess Unionist leaders only recognise British law when it suits/suited them.

    BTW -British nationals can vote in Dail elections . They can’t vote in Presidential elections because . If their fellow Britons could vote for the Queen then on the basis of reciprocity they would also be entitled to vote in Irish Presidential elections.

  • British citizens, British subjects and Irish citizens

    Lord West of Spithead: “Those who were citizens of Eire on 1 January 1949 could opt to remain a British subject under Section 4(2) of the British Nationality Act 1948. Such people continue to have that right under the British Nationality Act 1981.

    For this purpose, “citizens of Eire” were defined by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1935 and the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1937.

    Those who have no claim to British subject status would need to naturalise, in the same way as other foreign nationals, in order to become British citizens. For this purpose, the term “Irish citizen” would refer to those recognised by the Irish Government under their current legislation as being their nationals. When applying for citizenship, this would normally be demonstrated by possession of an Irish passport.”

  • Oilifear

    On the subject of votes for Irish (only) citizens in the UK, the proposal sounds like the work of idle hands. Really, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it? Although the reciprocal agreement in the Republic is no-where near as old as that from the UK (dating from the mid-80s, I believe), it always seemed to me as being quite sensible, simply a matter of good-neighbourliness, acknowledging our mutual history, and – if anything – a broad gesture to those whose identity spans these islands, rather than being of just one (and thus more “British”-minded than “Irish”). What response would Lord Goldsmith want from the Republic on this? Would he have us ban Northern Unionists residing in the Republic from voting in Dáil elections (never mind the hundreds of thousands of Englanders!) in response? How does that benefit our mutual relations – on Ireland or across these islands?

    On the other proposals, it just shows how far removed the national question on Great Britain is from that in Northern Ireland, and how divorced the constituent members of Great Britain are from each other. So the school-leaving children of England will have to swear an oath to the UK, but those of Scotland and Wales won’t? And no-one would dream of proposing such a thing in the North because it is a “special case”?

    Jesus wept. Can we not just be left to be English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Manx and Channel Islander, as we are all pleased to be, without prejudice to a shared identity or a common bond among us.

  • George

    Reader,
    true, death is taking its toll too but tens of thousands have returned to Ireland from the UK in the last decade.

    The Irish numbers in London have dropped by over a quarter in just 10 years so there is a huge departure going on.

    I think well over a third of the Irish-born in Britain are pensioners at this stage so death might start kicking in in earnest in the next decade.

  • Oilifear

    Greenflag, you quoted the section of the Ireland Act that states that, “notwithstanding that the Republic of Ireland is not part of His Majesty’s dominions, the Republic of Ireland is not a foreign country for the purposes of any law in force in any part of the United Kingdom or in any colony, protectorate or United Kingdom trust territory”, and then wrote, “Unionist leaders including the now retiring Paisley have ‘revelled’ in remarking as often as they could that the Republic is a ‘foreign country’.”

    In the fallout that followed the Republic of Ireland Act, the then Government of Northern Ireland hither-to-fore marginalised by the UK government, were consulted extensively on how to respond. The Ireland Act is largely a 1949 Northern Unionist response expressed through British central government. The irony runs even deeper still.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The Ireland Act is largely a 1949 Northern Unionist response expressed through British central government. The irony runs even deeper still. ‘

    Northern Unionist response ? Of course . That’s why it’s so not confusing 🙂

    ‘Can we not just be left to be English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Manx and Channel Islander, as we are all pleased to be, without prejudice to a shared identity or a common bond among us. ‘

    No- first you omitted Norn Iron /Ulster and secondly while what you say sounds fair enough from a common sense standpoint -remember that once you start down the path of legalistic terminology in matters pertaining to the complex relationships among the people, nations , countries / regions of these islands then some confusion has to be expected . Spike Milligan former British/Irish comedian exemplified this by insisting on having his coffin bedecked by an Irish triccolour when his funeral service was conducted in a Church of England chapel .

    I think Spike in the end was communicating a more than sublime message !

  • Oilifear

    Wasn’t Spike denied a British passport because he didn’t take the oath? Would take an Anglo-Irish to surpass the Northern Unionists for irony on this thread 🙂

  • “Northern Unionist response ? Of course .”

    Not quite. I’d assume it was drafted at Westminster.

  • Sean Fear

    I’m not so sure that Irish citizens living in the UK are particularly pro-Labour these days. But Commonwealth citizens from Asia and Africa certainly are, and I’d be surprised if Labour would want to disenfranchise them.

    But it flags up an idea which an incoming Conservative government might wish to pursue.