This article is from the July 2004 edition of Socialist Voice

Referendum - Government divide and rule agenda

THERE WERE two goals behind the government's citizenship referendum.

They hoped calling it on the same day as the elections would boost their vote. Secondly, they wanted to make it more difficult for refugees or immigrants to gain a legal right to settle in this country. Their first stroke completely backfired but unfortunately their attack on civil rights was endorsed with an overwhelming 80% in favour.

The vote does not at all mean 80% of people here are racist but it does in part reflect a hardening of attitudes against foreign nationals settling in Ireland.

Years of sensational headlines by the media and the Government has had an effect as in some areas the referendum brought voters out indicating a concern at the levels of immigration. McDowell was not able to produce any figures to show that so-called bogus "citizenship tourists" were having any significant impact on maternity services. The problem with hospital services is that they have not recovered from the cutbacks imposed by Fianna Fail. However it is clear that many do perceive that there is a competition between Irish people and foreign nationals for an under-funded service.

The referendum will now allow the Government to introduce legislation that will discriminate against a child on the basis of colour and class and not just the nationality of their parents. The real intention of this government is demonstrated by the fact that last year nearly 5,000 people were deported from this country before having a chance to make an application.

Their treatment of immigrant workers is now rivaling their attacks on asylum seekers. Their visa system essentially makes an immigrant worker dependant on a particular employer for their status. Likewise entitlements of foreign workers who are made unemployed are being cut back, which will force some to return home or into low paid and possibly illegal employment here.

The trade union movement has a responsibility to fight for the rights of refugees and immigrant workers. The more this Government get away with dividing people, scapegoating and attacking rights, the more that approach will be used against groups of workers.

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