Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Mary Toomey (Valarasan) : “I would consider every child born in this country as Irish”

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On August 12 2020 the Irish Times published an interview with a citizen who came to work study and live in Ireland in 1967.  Her name is Mary Toomey; she was born in Sri  Lanka.  I asked myself : was this the same woman who  got a job teaching in Sandymount High School (SHS), and was known by her pre-marriage surname, Valarasan? I did some searching, found out my guess was correct, and established direct contact. I was one of her SHS pupils, starting in September 1967.

Dr Mary Toomey, an Ecologist

A copy of the interview is at the link below :

https://www.dropbox.com/s/28f3db3uism75fa/Mary%20Toomey%20%28Valarasan%29.pdf?dl=0

See Also https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/once-you-are-not-lily-white-or-freckle-skinned-you-are-labelled-as-non-irish-1.4316508

A good description of Sandymount High School, which

was founded in 1947 and was initially controversial because, as a non-denominational school, it wasn’t owned by a church but by the Cannon family[1], who also provided the two headmasters the school had: father and son Patrick and Conall Cannon. Patrick’s wife Eileen Cannon also served as headmistress.

The school’s student body was arguably drawn from several distinct groups: those from a local council estate called Beech Hill, the offspring of parents disenchanted with denominational/same sex schools, students on the Malahide/Howth to Bray rail corridor and the 3 & 18 bus routes, and foreign nationals who paid tuition fees.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandymount_High_School?wprov=sfti1

In those days, unlike in 2020, very few people born outside Ireland lived and worked in a country famous for exporting its people. The Irish constitution stated that everyone born in Ireland (on both sides of the border dividing Ireland into two states)  automatically was a citizen of the state.

On June 12 2004 voters amended the constitution on a day of shame – the definition of “citizen” changed.

Mary Toomey observes

I would consider every child born in this country as Irish. But the problem is, once you are not lily-white or freckle-skinned, you are still labelled as non-Irish or a non-national.”

The protection of children – regardless of nationality, race, caste, creed, physical and mental disability or socio-economic status – should be Ireland’s primary focus, she says. But, 16 years on from the referendum, Dr Toomey says racism towards children of colour in Ireland has become noticeably worse.

I was an activist in the “Vote No” campaign.

Two items arguing against the new citizenship rules are below.

The first is a newspaper article written by Harry Browne.

The second is the text of a leaflet published by the Campaign Against the Racist Referendum.

Perhaps at some time in the near future a successful campaign can be organised to delete the current citizenship rule from the Irish constitution and restore the original wording.

Ireland Should take the lead in Europe

Evening Herald May 29 2004

By Harry Browne

ALTHOUGH I was born in Italy and grew up in New York and New Jersey, I am an Irish citizen. Why? Because I can prove my descent from an alcoholic RIC man who was born in the “Queen’s County” about 120 years ago.

I’m still not sure why my grandfather legged it from what’s now called Laois, and out of Ireland, about 90 years ago.

The “grandfather rule” for citizenship is a way of recognising that Irish people were forced to flee colonial poverty and oppression, but this particular grandfather probably faced more of those horrors in Manhattan than he did on the Auld Sod.

Still, soon after he passed through Ellis Island he met and married a good Wexford woman, and they filled their Hell’s Kitchen tenement with little US-citizen babies, including my Dad.

Plenty of Americans hated immigrants – plenty still do – but the government there had the sense to realise that these babies didn’t belong to some other state.

Whatever the colour of their skin, whatever religious or political beliefs were discussed in whatever language was spoken in their homes, even if their mothers waddled off the boat eight months pregnant, it made sense to recognise US-born children as US citizens. What else?

That’s still the rule in the US, and in other immigrant societies like Canada and Australia. It should stay the rule in Ireland, despite the efforts of Michael McDowell to change it with this blatantly discriminatory referendum.

Sure, elsewhere in Europe citizenship is often governed by the racist logic of the bloodline. But by European standards Ireland is young, a republic without royal dynasties or other “old Europe” throwbacks, and with a relatively enlightened citizenship-by-birth policy throughout the history of the State.

Rather than dragging ourselves down to their level, shouldn’t we be taking the lead in Europe? If we can show the way with plastic bags and cigarettes, can’t we be an example by giving proper respect to all the innocent babies born on our soil?

Citizenship is one crucial way we do that. In a better world, people’s rights and freedoms won’t be governed by the colour of their passports – themselves a relatively recent invention in human history, a way for governments to control us.

But in the real world of today, an Irish passport confers real, dramatic advantages. Ask yourself: by what moral authority can you claim those advantages for your child but not for the one beside her in the maternity hospital?

Of course, that child and his parents should also have the choice to claim and retain citizenship from their country of origin, for whatever good it does them.

After all, despite the bloodline nonsense, nationality is not really an either-or thing. When I was a kid, my Irish-American Dad and Italian-American Mom did an exercise to occupy three children on a long car journey: taking what we knew about the places our ancestors came from (Laois, Wexford, Naples, Sicily) and all the family names, we listed the nations and cultures that might be “in our blood”.

My folks were good historians, and Mom covered both sides of an envelope in tiny writing with names of places and peoples – some we’d never even heard of.

Since before humans came out of Africa, moving and mingling has been a huge part of the story of our species. All of us are the mixed-up descendents of migrants.

Happily, settling down and growing attached to a particular place is also part of our story. Most people, given a half-decent chance at a half-decent life, will try to stay where they’re known and loved.

No floodgates have opened into Ireland, no tide of humanity is pouring in. A few thousand people have fled desperate lives, landed on our shores and had babies.

And if this wandering grandson of a drunken cop can be an Irish citizen, why on earth shouldn’t they?

Cherish all the Children of the Nation Equally” 1916 Proclamation

Public Meeting –

VOTE NO in Citizenship Referendum

Thursday June 3, 8.00pm

Liberty Hall, Eden Quay, Dublin 1
Speakers :

Ivana Bacik

Lawyers Against the Amendment

Gareth Keogh

Deputy President, Union of Students in Ireland

Joanna McMinn

National Women’s Council of Ireland

Tom Ryan

President, Dublin Council of Trade Unions

Spokesperson

Residents Against Racism

Organised by the Campaign Against the Racist Referendum

All Children Are Equal

At present, all children born In Ireland have equal rights, but the government wants to change that. If the citizenship referendum is passed, some children born here will be less equal than others because of their parents’ origins. The constitution will be changed to allow Racial Discrimination.

‘Citizenship Tourism’?

McDowell the Justice Minister claims pregnant women come here to abuse our citizenship laws – but he has no figures. Being the parent of an Irish citizen doesn’t give someone a legal right to live here. Many other countries have similar citizenship laws to ours, Including the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

Maternity Hospitals Crisis

McDowell claimed the Masters of the maternity hospitals pleaded with him to bring in this change. They say that this is not true. Years of government cutbacks and closures are the real cause of the crisis in the health service. The government wants to create a smokescreen to hide its failures. This is why it is pushing through a referendum to attack the rights of Irish children.

  • If YOU believe we should “Cherish all the Children of the Nation Equally”

  • If YOU think everyone born here is entitled to the same basic human rights

  • If YOU want an Ireland free from racism and discrimination

VOTE NO

Campaign Against the Racist Referendum

Vote No Leaflet 2004 Irish Citizenship Referendum

John Meehan August 28 2020

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