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Voting Rights for Immigrants in Ireland Under Threat

category louth | rights, freedoms and repression | feature author Sunday April 11, 2004 02:55author by Indymedia Ireland Editorial Group - Indymedia Ireland Report this post to the editors

Bureaucratic Anomaly Could Disenfranchise Thousands of New Voters

.


'We are asking for an acceptable form
of identification so that we may vote.'
Benedicta Attoh is standing as an independent candidate for Dundalk City Council and Louth Co. Council, but her most natural constituency may not be allowed to vote for her due to a bureaucratic anomaly uncorrected by the Irish government.

Born in Nigeria and now a resident in Ireland, Ms. Attoh has been a four year resident in Dundalk - she has a legal right to run in the local elections.

Ms. Attoh estimates the Dundalk non-EU immigrant population to be over a thousand, ''it would be wrong for any politician in that area to ignore that number.'' If elected, she wants to ''represent everyone, the immigrant community as well as the local population. I want our views [as immigrants] to be respected. That is the reason I decided to run.''

After four years in Ireland she wants to bring her political activism to the Irish political arena. She is one of the first African voices to be heard in Irish elections but disregards her history making: ''The issue here is not to make history, the issue is to make a change, to make a difference.''

''Back home in Nigeria I was involved in politics, I was a student representative in the university. And after I watched Irish politics keenly I saw so many cowboys and liars that I decided Irish politics could do with an African.'' Ms. Attoh sees great similarities between Irish voters and immigrant voters ''The local issues facing immigrants are the same facing the local Irish population - but are often deeper for the immigrant communities.'' She cites Housing as an example of what affects both Irish and immigrants alike, but still differently for immigrants. ''In a situation where you have 5-8 people in a crowded two bedroom apartment, that is also an issue of homelessness.''

And health services, too ''We have no maternity or paediatric units in the hospitals of Dundalk - you have to travel all the way to Drogheda for pediatric services. This is not acceptable to either local Irish or Immigrants in Dundalk.''

All Dundalk voters will have the chance to vote for Ms. Attoh, but only Irish citizens will be able to vote on the recently announced Mc Dowell Referendum designed to eliminate the right of citizenship to all children born in Ireland.

Ms. Attoh sees the Mc Dowell Referendum as a Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat attempt to divide voters against Ireland's new residents and citizens: ''We are the targets of this particular referendum. We won't be heard if we are not in office. There has to be some level of representation so that government will listen to us, and that is why a number of us are running in this race.''

However, the democratic aspirations of Ms Attoh may be dashed since many of her voters will not be allowed to vote this June 11. Asylum Seekers may not be allowed to vote due to a bureaucratic anomaly - the 'ID card' given to all Asylum Seekers by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) cannot, by law, be used as identification.

''They will not accept the ID's given by the GNIB because on the back of the card it is clearly stated that 'THIS IS NOT AN IDENTITY CARD' - at the moment we are stuck, we do not know what to do. The government says we have the right to vote in local and European elections, but if we go to vote this June 11 they will probably tell us that our ID's are not acceptable.''

Also recently:
- Asylum Seeking families with Irish citizen children have been deported. The GNIB confiscated the Irish children's passports before being expelled from the country (Irish Times web / .pdf archive)
- Irish MEP Proinsias De Rossa (Labour) asks the European Commission if the Irish government 'discriminates against EU citizen children whose parents are third-country nationals?' (see below)

Seeking asylum to become a recognised refugee is a log jammed process that can take years. At the start of the process the Department of Justice confiscates the applicants' passport, if he or she has one, and then gives the applicant a Temporary Residence Certificate Card and this card clearly states that it is not be used for identification purposes.

On 25 March, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD (Sinn Féin) tabled a question in Dáil Éireann concerning this anomaly in the system (see below). The question was answered by Martin Cullen TD (Fianna Fáil) Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, as 'under examination' - eight weeks until the election and no solution has been offered by the government.

''We are asking for an acceptable form of identification so that we may vote.'' Ms. Attoh says.

In spite of these difficulties and the current climate of racial division in Ireland, Ms. Attoh is hopeful for the future: ''In 15 years Ireland will be a more hospitable place because the awareness and understanding will have increased in the Irish people and the attitude will not be what it is now.''

Ms. Attoh looks forward to an Ireland of the future that welcomes both Irish and Immigrants. ''We look forward to an Ireland that everyone can call their home.''

author by ecpublication date Wed Apr 07, 2004 16:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/front/2004/0407/4050245628HM1NIGERIA.html

McDowell is a nasty piece of work. Seems FF and PDs aer pandering to racism and the hang em flog em brigade to avoid humiliation in EU/Local elections.

What is the name of the famous union organiser and hall builder who dev deported?

author by Indymedia Ireland Editorial Group - Indymedia Irelandpublication date Sat Apr 10, 2004 21:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

NOTICE OF QUESTION (FOR WRITTEN ANSWER):

To ask the Minister for Environment and Local Government –

If the residency card issued to non-nationals will be accepted as identification for the purposes of voting in the local and EU elections; if not, what forms of identification will be considered acceptable for non-nationals; and what measures the Minister has put in place to ensure that eligible non-national voters are fully able to exercise their franchise during the coming elections in June, and that they are not discriminated against when presenting themselves to exercise their right to vote.

Name – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD
Constituency – Dublin South Central
Date – 25 March 2004

- - - - - -

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Cullen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 530, 558 and 564 together.

The question of the identification available to asylum seekers and refugees for electoral purposes is under examination in my Department in consultation with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

author by Indymedia Ireland Editorial Group - Indymedia Irelandpublication date Sat Apr 10, 2004 21:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Question to the Commission
Proinsias De Rossa MEP PQ
Subject: Deportation of the parents of EU citizens

Is the Commission aware that Irish/EU citizen children of 11,000 parents who lawfully applied to the Department of Justice for residency before February 2003 are currently at risk of being forced to leave Ireland?

The policy of allowing for the deportation of parents of Irish/EU citizens may mean that these children could be forced to live in countries where their rights, set out in the European Convention on Human Rights will not be protected. Has the Commission been in contact with the Irish Government concerning the rights of Irish/EU citizens whose parents face deportation? Does the Commission agree that this policy discriminates against EU citizen children whose parents are third-country nationals?

Proinsias De Rossa MEP

author by Grey Blockerpublication date Sun Apr 11, 2004 03:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The person ec was referring to was Jim Gralton. The incident first came to my attention when a magazine named after him was published (sometime in the eighties?)
Anyone know how many editions of that magazine were published?

author by Benny Goodmanpublication date Sun Apr 11, 2004 04:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

instead make sure that recent low income immigrant and refugee families can't buy a house or get help with rental income from the health boards and have to throw all their earnings to speculators and landlords - this is about the property market.

All it costs is the deportation of a few thousand young citizens which is under way already from the looks of things. Didn't we used to let them get a bit older before we shipped them out?

They got to keep the passport.

For all the good it done a lot of them

author by except Graltonpublication date Sun Apr 11, 2004 04:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

.

author by TTpublication date Sun Apr 11, 2004 04:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I believe it is extremely important for immigrant rights groups, anti-racism groups etc. to keep accurate records of Irish-born children of immigrants, particularly since their passports are being confiscated by the state. The issue must not end when these people have been deported. They must be in a position to sue the perpetrators of this outrage at some future date. Their situation must be kept 'live'.

These children are having their rights trampled on in much the same way as Irish orphans in the early and mid-Twentieth Century who were sent away to Australia and Canada to be "reared" in religious-run institutions, many of whom died without ever meeting members of their own families ever again.

The crooks and chancers who run this country must be made aware that they WILL be held accountable no matter how long it takes.

author by infopublication date Sun Apr 11, 2004 13:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mc Dowell: The man from Uncle and the boys in blue (shirts, that is)
By Tim Pat Coogan

Sunday Indo
http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=36&si=1162262&issue_id=10715

Let us remember that today's Irish diaspora is so large that perhaps 70 million people on the planet are entitled to style themselves Irish. This circumstance owes its origins to dispossession, famine, dislocation, but also to the millions of people in other lands who did not hang signs in their windows saying "no dogs, blacks, or Irish", but who took them in, in the face of prejudice and economic competition.

The many thousands of Irish who today find welcome in Spanish holiday resorts are probably unaware that they are treading in the footsteps of the Irish who, four centuries ago, enjoyed the incredible boon of having Spanish citizenship automatically conferred upon them, by virtue of their Irish birth, when they were being hunted out of their own country

[....]

To speak plainly: If this society is to repel black Africans, what the hell chance does it think it has of attracting Black Protestants? If, as he argued in this paper, McDowell's motivation is concern at the strain being placed on our maternity hospitals by pregnant non-nationals he should seek to have our health services improved, not worsen our Constitution. God be with the days when we were urged to support black babies!

McDowell's racial approach apart, his anti-Sinn Fein/IRA rhetoric, carries the demerit that while it may be directed at Fine Gael fence-sitters, it is listened to and manipulated in the North, and possibly elsewhere.

Here in Ireland both Paisleys, senior and junior, are on record as having quoted McDowell's utterances approvingly as justification for defying McDowell's own government by their refusal to share power with the largest nationalist party in the six counties, thus jeopardizing the peace process.

more at...

PDF file of Coogan article
http://boston.indymedia.org/usermedia/application/4/coogan.pdf

Related Link: http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=36&si=1162262&issue_id=10715
author by pcpublication date Sun Apr 11, 2004 18:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

from the strange aticle on e-voting from eoghan willians in the sunday indo

citizens from other eu countries do not have the right to vote in the referendum but are eligble to vote in teh local nad european elections and non-eu nationals have only the right to vote in local elections

well makes sense but complicated

author by redjadepublication date Mon Apr 12, 2004 14:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

yeah, I agree.

There was some senator on the floor raising doubts if the Electronic Voting plans took all this into consideration. I do not know the answer, and I wonder if the government does either.

There will have to be one electronic ballot for Irish citizens, one electronic ballot for EU Citizens, and one electronic ballot for non-EU residents (is there another category?).

Looking at the official Electronic Voting website http://www.electronicvoting.ie I couldn't find any reference to this complication - I might need to read more though.

So, I think the question is, not only will the government have an answer for Benedicta Attoh's immigrant voters by the time the election happens, but also will the electronic voting machines be ready and include that answer.

Election is two months away - can the government solve this problem efficiently and on time?

author by * - nonepublication date Mon Apr 12, 2004 14:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Despite having a budget of millions and fancy offices. Why? Because dissent is not tolerated any longer by 'official' Ireland. Look at Cu Cullens Activities With Regard to Planning. Look at the Grey Bloc being told to shut up in the tribunal with their laughter that echoes in homes across the land. Look at the unprecedented Mayday Scaremongering. Look at the Govt sop to (blatantly unpolled and unmeasured) Anti - War Feeling in the week of Fallujah - giving meekly out a long time after the fact about a Pirate Flag on a US Warplane at Baldonnel. Look at the IT who now even screen their letters pages to fit in with a PD type agenda.

author by Kenneth Owendepublication date Mon Apr 12, 2004 17:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"''Back home in Nigeria I was involved in politics"

What party was she involved in? If it was one of the rotten ganster parties that ally with Obasanjo I don't think people should vote for her.

Related Link: http://www.socialistnigeria.org
author by voterpublication date Mon Apr 12, 2004 18:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Local Elections -
All registered residents.

Euro Elections -
All residents who are Irish or British citizens or are EU citizens who have proved themselves not to be registered in another country.

Dail elections -
Only residents who are Irish or British citizens.

Constitutional Referenda & Presidential elections -
Only residents who are Irish citizens.

All of course have to be over 18 and on the electoral register.

As there will be local, euro elctions as well as a referendum ther will be 3 types of voter. Those voting in one, two and three polls. Withe the electronic voting all the ballots will be in front of all voters. This presents difficulties for the polling staff, particularly those next to the machine, who will have to make sure that certain ballots are deactivated for certain voters. Previously the polling staff simply didn't hand out all the ballot papers.

author by pcpublication date Thu Apr 15, 2004 21:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

was in the indo on weds

author by indy fanpublication date Thu Apr 15, 2004 23:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Red tape over ID robs immigrants of right to vote
http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=9&si=1163058&issue_id=10719

author by Sinn Féinpublication date Mon Apr 19, 2004 20:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Daithí Doolan, speaking today in Dublin, called on Gardaí to co-operate fully with people registering to vote in the forthcoming elections. Mr. Doolan said, "current legislation requires people who are applying to be included on the register of electors for June to have their forms filled out in the presence of a Garda and signed by the Garda. While encouraging constituents to register to do so I have been alarmed by the fact that Gardaí are totally unaware of their obligations under this legislation. I have spoken to one Garda station here in Dublin's inner city and was concerned when Gardaí informed me that they were unaware of their role."

Related Link: http://www.sinnfein.ie/news/detail/4286
author by pcpublication date Mon Apr 19, 2004 20:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

there was an artilce in the indo i think saying that prisoners haven't been giving the facilities to vote either even though they are entitled to , and of course the department are looking into it....... they'll be in a hurry who else is cut out?

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