An American in the Irish government?

Rumors are rife that an American - a citizen of the United States of America - is about to be elevated to a position in the Irish government. I'm not sure what you might think about that, but I'm not comfortable with it.

American citizen and Green Party member Ciaran Cuffe is the man in question. Cuffe is a member of the Dáil (Irish parliament), but now he is supposedly about to become a minister in the government, probably later this month.

Cuffe's in the same position as me and all those who hold dual citizenship between America and any other country. We all walk a line that can seem pretty fuzzy at times. I've always figured that there's little chance of an actual war between Ireland and America* so my true loyalties will never be called into question**.

I pay my taxes here, I vote here, I live here, my wife and children live here. Yet, I feel incredible loyalty to America. I still vote there. I do my utmost to defend America in conversations, arguments, debates, whatever. Occasionally I've done so in the media. Living outside of America has helped me appreciate it a lot more than I probably would have had I remained at home.

Where Cuffe's and my situations differ is that he's an elected member of parliament, which is not something I've ever seriously considered pursuing, partially because I wasn't sure it was entirely legal in American law. Legal or not it strikes me as not really right, although I could accept an argument saying it's okay to be an American citizen serving in another country's parliament.

However, I definitely think it's wrong for an American to take a seat in another country's government, even the Irish government. The law, however, does not offer me clear-cut support for my position.


A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality — ... accepting, serving in, or performing the duties of any office, post, or employment under the government of a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof, after attaining the age of eighteen years if he has or acquires the nationality of such foreign state

Note that "with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality," which I imagine would offer a legal out for Cuffe.

Cuffe has publicly acknowledged that he is an American citizen and even described in a blog-post how he had voted for Barak Obama in the 2008 election. He was a member of the Dáil at the time. {In the comments on his blog post, Cuffe demonstrates he's aware of the American laws on citizenship and serving in another country's government.}

Irish citizens should probably object more than Americans, but either way if Cuffe does become a government minister while retaining his American citizenship he'll be riding two horses at the same time. Even though the relationship between Ireland and the United States is more about cooperation than competition, Irish government ministers have a role in the EU's Council of Ministers. And the EU-US relationship definitely has a competitive edge.

Cuffe should not have any say in the composition of the American government or influence over its policies while serving in the cabinet of another country. There's a clear conflict of interest. He should either refuse the position or relinquish his American citizenship.

* If a war between Ireland and America was looking inevitable I'd suggest to the United States Army that they choose a Wednesday afternoon to begin proceedings - the Irish army takes a half day on Wednesdays.

** The only time my loyalties are strained is on the sporting field and there I tend to make up my mind as to which side I'll root for. Generally speaking I root for America in rugby (always the underdog, never a chance of winning) and Ireland at the Olympics (you have to appreciate how much one Olympic medal means here). Soccer is the only place where the two nations' athletes meet as more or less equals. I root for America, but if it was the World Cup Final I'd root for Ireland. Again, such a win would mean far less to Americans than it would to people here.

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