- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 12, 2004

DUBLIN (AP) — Voters have overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment yesterday to tighten Ireland’s liberal citizenship laws, partial results showed.

With a third of ballots counted, nearly 80 percent of votes from Friday’s referendum supported an amendment to stop granting automatic citizenship to anybody born on the island, a rule unique among the 25 nations of the European Union.

To be approved, the government’s proposed referendum required only a simple majority, and campaigners against the proposed amendment conceded defeat.

The amendment will allow the government to pass a bill that would allow Irish-born children to receive automatic citizenship only if at least one parent is Irish or, in the case of foreign parents, if they have been resident in Ireland for a minimum of three years.

This measure would bring Ireland closer to the policies observed by other European nations, which offer citizenship based either on the nationality of parents or on a sufficient length of residence.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell, who led the government campaign for a “yes” vote to the amendment, argued that heavily pregnant foreigners were traveling to Ireland specifically to exploit the law and thereby gain a European Union passport too easily.

Some said Irish voters would be hypocritical if they voted to make Ireland less welcoming to immigrants, since the Irish themselves have been emigrating freely to Britain, North America and Australia for more than a century.

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