Against the 27th: Pursuing migrant rights in anti-racism activism

A student campaign has launched in Trinity against the 27th amendment

While last year Ireland saw a surge in the number of British applying for Irish passports after Brexit, desperate to cling to the benefits of EU citizenship, thousands of people born and raised on the island have been blocked from the same goal by the 27th amendment. Passed in 2004, the 27th amendment to the Irish constitution eliminates the automatic entitlement to Irish citizenship to all those born in Ireland, meaning, essentially, that children born in Ireland are not granted Irish citizenship unless they were born to Irish citizens. Not only does this undermine the 19th Amendment, passed as a component of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, but it effectively means that the ability to work, vote and access an education has been severely affected for those born in Ireland after 2005 who do not hold Irish, UK, EEA or Swiss citizenship. 

I realised it was an important time to try and mobilise and raise the profile of the issues with those around me.”

For third year Trinity student Gabrielle Fullam, the increase in the recent global dialogue on racism, direct provision, and the wider status of migrants and people of colour served as the perfect opportunity to bring this conversation to Trinity. “I’ve been acutely aware of it as an issue for a really long time. As I interacted with more people who were affected and became increasingly aware of citizenship rights, it started to weigh on me more,” she said. “I realised it was an important time to try and mobilise and raise the profile of the issues with those around me.”

To put this into action, at the start of term Fullam launched a campaign called “TCD Against the 27th”, which aims to bring awareness to the issue and ultimately put political pressure on the Dáil to extend automatic citizenship to all children born in the state or who have been resident here for over three years. More immediately, though, Fullam hopes to promote migrant rights on campus by pressuring TDs and hosting events to raise awareness on the issue. “Our first event will be on Thursday, November 5 at 5pm and will consist of a panel of experts on citizenship, racism and legal issues,” she said. “From there, we will seek to get more people involved to organise large-scale lobbying efforts and support organisations that work for migrant rights.”

The heart of the campaign is fueled by support for the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Citizenship for Children) Bill, which was recently introduced by Mick Barry TD and which intends to restore automatic citizenship for all children born in Ireland, as well as to provide citizenship for all children who have resided in Ireland for over three years. Barry wrote that the legislation enacted in 2005 was racist, and, furthermore, that the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer was largely responsible for the decision to move this bill at such an early stage. “The 2004 referendum… has impacted the lives of thousands of young people, not least the hundreds of young people who have been deported from this country since that time or who face deportation today,” he said in the Dáil Éireann debate held on September 24. “It is particularly apt that the Bill is being moved at this time because a young person who was born around the time that legislation was enacted is approaching his or her 16th birthday now, and is facing the denial of freedoms and rights that their peers, their friends and their classmates enjoy.” 

It’s important to note that while we all lobby for Trinity to improve, we should also remember that even if you think Trinity is failing its students, the real people who are failed are those who never make it to Trinity student status” 

Indeed, younger and college-aged people are undoubtedly among the hardest-hit by the 27th amendment. Not only would those who were not born to Irish parents have to apply for work permits in order to work in Ireland, but their ability to access higher education funding or Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) may prevent them from obtaining a third-level education. For Fullam, this only increases the responsibility of Trinity students to speak out on the issue for those who are unable to. “It’s important to note that while we all lobby for Trinity to improve, we should also remember that even if you think Trinity is failing its students, the real people who are failed are those who never make it to Trinity student status, who are locked out for a number of factors,” she said. “Many of us in Trinity are privileged enough for our voices to be heard in society, and we have an onus to use it.”

“Migrant rights are essential to any type of meaningful anti-racism activism”

Though the nationwide move to a Level 5 lockdown has rendered it impossible for large groups to meet, Fullam hopes that Trinity students can bring the same energy and enthusiasm that would be found at rallies and protests to support the campaign virtually. “I’d like students to understand that migrant rights are essential to any type of meaningful anti-racism activism they ascribe to, and that we need to push for this tangible change,” she said. “We have to remember that citizenship can govern a person’s entire life, it insulates them against deportation and determines one’s ability to work, attain higher education, and vote. We hope that targeted attention on this will result in political pressure, and eventually, tangible meaningful change.”

 

Olivia Flaherty-Lovy

Olivia Flaherty-Lovy

Olivia Flaherty-Lovy is the Features Editor of Trinity News, and a Senior Fresh student of English Studies.