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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 June, 2004, 00:54 GMT 01:54 UK
Ireland votes to end birth right
Pregnant woman
The Irish government says there is evidence of "citizenship tourism"
Irish voters have overwhelmingly backed the tightening of their citizenship laws, final referendum results show.

With tallying completed in all 34 counting centres, 79.17% of voters wanted to end the automatic citizenship right for all babies born in Ireland.

The government said change was needed because foreign women were travelling to Ireland to give birth in order to get an EU passport for their babies.

Ireland has been the only EU country to grant such a right.

The poll results showed that 20.83% of voters rejected the proposed changes. The turnout was 59.95%.

Voters were making their decision on the constitutional issue at the same time as they elected MEPs to the European Union's parliament.

To be approved, the government's referendum on a constitutional amendment requires only a simple majority.

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 if parents have been resident in Ireland for at least three years.

Delicate issue

Ireland's Justice Minister Michael McDowell said there was evidence of what he termed "citizenship tourism".

The government says the law, as it stands, provides a loophole that is being exploited.

Opponents - including political parties such as the Labour Party, Sinn Fein and the Greens - see the situation differently.

They say the government is playing politics with the delicate issue of race and immigration.

Critics believe there is no reason to hold a referendum on this matter and say the numbers of women coming to Ireland to give birth is so small that it does not warrant a poll.

The BBC's James Helm
"A resounding approval of what the Irish government wants to do"

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