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America's Irish immigrants - not Irish enough to be President of Ireland

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Irish Presidential candidate
Dana Rosemary Scallon
Irish Presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon found herself at the center of a controversy she clearly never anticipated when she decided to put her name forward for Ireland's top job. Although it was couched in a variety of ways, the accusation essentially was that Scallon was an American.

It's true too. She is. Scallon became an American citizen during the 1990s. The Irish Times said she'd become American in 1997 before her last bid to become President of Ireland. Scallon said it was 1999 and it seems to probably be the case as the source for the Irish Times' story has rowed back somewhat on her testimony.

As the story unfolded on Friday I got more and more annoyed as Scallon's American citizenship took on the aura of a social disease. Twitter and talk radio were ablaze with people indignant that this woman who had taken out American citizenship should want to be President of Ireland.

It is vaguely amusing because the Irish Constitution doesn't actually disallow an Irish citizen from the Presidency simply because they happen to also be a citizen of another country. You may well think that's a bit lax, but the Irish Constitution was "written"* by American-born Eamon De Valera. He somehow failed to exclude himself from any governmental role, including President when the Constitution was being drafted.

So, there is no restriction on an American citizen becoming President of Ireland.

Fortunately the matter of the Oath of Allegiance provided an out for those who prefer their political assassinations to be less obviously based on bigotry. The Irish Times got the ball rolling by "helpfully" reproducing the oath Scallon had to take when she became American. They pontificated on the fact that she had declared that she does "entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty ..." when she became a citizen.

That's true too. She said those words, or some form of them, when she became an American citizen. However, Ireland, like the United Kingdom and other countries, doesn't accept the renunciation in the American oath. She retained all rights of citizenship after taking the oath that she had before she did so. There is absolutely no legal impediment to her becoming President of Ireland.
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Read More:

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There is nothing legally preventing Scallon from becoming President, but the Irish Times and others are keen to prevent someone of that type from becoming President. What type is that? Irish immigrants to America.

Niall O'Dowd ran into the same bigoted nonsense earlier this year when he was only exploring a possible run for the Presidency.

And, yes I am convinced it really is only Irish immigrants to America who would be targeted in this way. If one of the candidates had spent years living in France, speaking French and living as an immigrant in France we'd be told over and over how great it would be to have such a sophisticate in the post. If the person had lived in Indonesia, we'd hear about how the candidate could help us renew our ties to the third world.

However, if you go to America and live as immigrants to America live you're told you are no longer Irish. Not really. You're sort of tainted Irish. Good enough for us to woo if you're successful in business or to invite to a "homecoming," but don't for one minute think you're still one of us.

One thing O'Dowd got right that Scallon got wrong was that he didn't apologize or run away from his decision to become an American. Millions have made the same journey over the past two centuries and to give into this bigotry would have been an insult to all those who went to America, many because they were driven there by poverty and political ineptitude, but who nonetheless remained proud to be Irish and passed that pride down to their American born children, grandchildren and so on.

Scallon, unfortunately, said she "would have no problem giving up my US citizenship if that was the wish of the Irish people." How craven.

She should have spit in their eye and told them that she was proud to have become an American and saw no conflict between being an American citizen and serving as President of Ireland. She could have just said she would abstain from participating in the American political process while serving as President. That would have been fine.

The President of Ireland has limited constitutional responsibilities. The role of the President these days is one of national cheerleader and promoter. An American, whether an immigrant from Ireland or of Irish descent, would be a great idea. It would demonstrate that all this talk about harnessing the diaspora's potential isn't just guff or a cash call. Even in a losing effort Scallon could have been that candidate, but instead she chose to accept the Irish Times' denigration of America's Irish immigrants.

* The Constitution is often said to have been "written by Dev," but in fact he closely oversaw the drafting process.

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