My grandfather came to Australia in the 1950s from Ireland. He was 19 when he jumped on a boat and travelled across the world, leaving his family behind.
The rest of the family arrived soon after and would make their life in Australia. There are now four generations of our family in this country, including my children.
I’ve always heard my grandfather’s clear Irish accent but that is the only remnant of his Irish heritage that has remained.
He has always said the second he set foot in Australia, he was Australian.
Luckily he’s never run for office - I don’t know if he’s ever revoked his Irish citizenship.
But why should he have to?
Section 44(i) of the constitution, the law that has seen all our federal politicians scrambling to find out if they are in some way a dual citizen, says “Any person who is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power…”
To the letter of the law, it can be argued that there is some wrongdoing, but it also shows the complexity of international citizenship laws.
When Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters resigned a month ago, they were condemned, because who doesn’t know if they’re a citizen of another country?
What has become apparent is that few children and grandchildren of immigrants know whether they are dual citizens based on the laws of foreign governments.
Australia is a multicultural country and that has made us what we are today.
My grandfather came to Australia and settled in the period of immigration policy known as ‘populate or perish’ with millions of other immigrants.
Shouldn’t they have a voice in how the country is run?
Should my father, who was born in Australia but could potentially be a dual citizen despite never having stepped foot in Ireland, be disqualified from running for government if he should choose?
We are supposed to be a global community but laws like this make us isolationist.
Just because you’re born in this country with parents born in this country, it doesn’t mean that you love this country any more or less than people who have arrived here.
- Andrew McMurtry is a Fairfax journalist for north-west Sydney.