The following open letter has today been sent to Ms Helen McEntee T.D. the Minister for Justice and Equality for The Irish Government and also to the editors of The Irish Post, The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Irish Examiner, The Herald (Ireland) and The Sunday World. This open letter has also been sent to the Scottish Government and Susan Aitken Lord Provost at Glasgow City Council and the Mayor of Liverpool.
Brexit: A Plea on behalf of the British Great Grandchildren of Irish Emigrants
Minister’s Reference: DJE – MO -05255 – 2020
Dear Minister for Justice and Equality
As a grandchild of Thomas Martin, who left County Meath in 1916 for Scotland, I recently secured my Irish passport. Thank you. I understand, however, that the next generation of great grandchildren have no such right, yet their need is now so much greater.
So, on the European Commission’s International Youth Day in 2020, I asked the Irish Government to consider extending the right to Irish citizenship to the great grandchildren of Irish emigrants within the U.K..
I asked to try to remedy some of the harm caused by the policy of the U.K. Government to pursue Brexit, conscious of the irony that U.K. Government policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries would, to some extent, have contributed to the scale of Irish emigration, when my grandfather left, in poverty, to endure the hardships of any migrant community.
The Irish diaspora is widely spread around the world and their pride in their heritage is well known. A good example of their success and generosity is within the U.S., as highlighted by U.S. President Elect Joe Biden. The cost to Ireland of their mass emigration may, in some small way, be balanced by the benefits of such influence and support.
The Irish people are also known for their generosity, and not just to their diaspora. Their recent donation of €2.5m to the Choctaw people, who had appealed for help to fight Covid 19: a donation made in sensitive acknowledgment of the Native American ancestors of the Choctaw people, who had sent $170 in aid during the Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger.
The Irish people now have another opportunity to help, not with financial support, but by using their power to reinstate to those great grandchildren, their right to freedom of movement within Europe. As is available in Northern Ireland.
Outside Northern Ireland, there is a significant diaspora within Great Britain, notably in Glasgow and Liverpool: the only cities with a Post Office in which you can apply for an Irish passport. Both cities voted to remain in Europe, as did Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But Brexit has now happened and the loss of freedom of movement is disproportionately adverse and egregious for young people, including those great grandchildren. A 21 year old today could have a great grandparent who emigrated in 1888. That 21 year old is part of a generation which grew up believing that Europe was their ‘oyster’. They had the right to choose where in Europe to live, work and study.
This precious right has been removed, without their consent and against their will. If reinstated through Irish citizenship, they would have a better economic chance in an extreme economic situation. Just as their great grandparents left Ireland in search of a better economic chance in extreme economic situations.
Of course, other EU Member States could consider a similar proposal. But only Ireland has been subject to direct impacts of policy decisions of the U.K. Government for generations. And usually Tory Governments. I understand that the word ‘Tory’ comes from the Irish Gaelic word ‘toraidhe’ meaning ‘outlaw’ or ‘robber’. Well, these young people, who wanted to remain in Europe, have certainly been robbed of their European status, to their economic, educational, social and cultural detriment.
A welcome part of the Irish Government’s response to Brexit is to fund Erasmus for students in Northern Ireland, where there is also a path to Irish citizenship. FactCheckNI’s paper of 5 March 2020 states:
“If you were not born on the island of Ireland, you may still be eligible for Irish citizenship (and eligible to apply for an Irish passport) if your grandparents or great grandparents were born on the island of Ireland.”
I respectfully ask the Irish Government to apply the great grandparent criterion to British citizens in Great Britain, as well as Northern Ireland.
On behalf of those young British citizens, I make a heartfelt plea to the Irish people:
Please allow them to recover their European status;
Please grant them equivalence with citizens in Northern Ireland;
Please help them as they deal with a post Covid economy;
Please give them the opportunity to live their lives and pursue their careers, as they expected, within the European Union.
6 January 2021
If you have an Irish grandparent you are able to apply for an Irish passport and The Celtic Star has provided help and assistance to hundreds of readers – even ones who are Rangers supporters(!) – to get through the process and emerge with their new Irish Passport. Here’s our guide to the process.
If anyone has any questions on this very important issue please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to assist. If you are in Ireland please do what you can yo share this Open Letter with your elected officials, local media and so on.