To Ourselves, Article Two

It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.

Here we outline what it means to be Irish, at least in a loose legal sense. Subsequent referenda have altered the interpretation of this but that remains the subject of Article Nine. In this article it’s made very clear (too clear as recent amendments have argued) who is entitled to be part of the Irish nation, though I suppose Article Two does not promise citizenship.

The second line reaffirms the power of law to determine who gets citizenship though the tone suggests inclusiveness and not exclusiveness.

It’s the last line that it is interesting here. How do we best approach the status of those members of the Irish Diaspora? Such a large part of our cultural legacy and history is wrapped up in the image of the emigrant going to America, to Britain, to Australasia. What do we grant these “people of Irish ancestry”?

Full citizenship is out of the question from a practical standpoint. It would be unwise to commit ourselves to any kind of legal application (again, these details are left for Article Nine). In the end, we’ve gone for the sentimental route. We “cherish” our scattered children around the globe.

This article leaves open the possibility of further debate, one I won’t get into here, about how we should treat those of Irish ancestry. Do they deserve special treatment? At what point do you stop being Irish-American and become just American?

My own personal experience has given me a very specific answer: third generation. This comes from family of mine in New Hampshire, California and London. The second generation, the sons and daughters of immigrants retain a sense of Irishness. Their children just don’t.

Of course, this is just my own personal interpretation. I’m just wondering why our modern state should have a “special affinity” for a large group of people who don’t act Irish, or have never been to this country.

If changes are required here, it’s simply to merge this article with Nine since they are expressly about the same subject. It can be argued that the main contents of Article Nine are in dispute with the first line of Article Two.

I’ll go into in far more detail in the next instalment, but prior to 1998, this article was a lot simpler.

The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas.

This was all of Article Two and along with Three, it formed the most contreversial part of the document. Here, for close to 60 years, we claimed another nations territory as our own. It took an extrordinary conference to lay the groundwork for change. More next time.

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