Dana’s allegiance issue

October 6th, 2011 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

It feels a little unfair to pick on someone when they’re down – Dana’s trailing the field in the presidential campaign, behind even Mitchell – but this is a fairly basic thing.

Background: Dana Rosemary Scallon became a US citizen shortly before running for president of Ireland in 1997.

The red herrings: Dana’s sister claimed during court proceedings in 2008 that Dana had actively decided not to bring that fact to the attention of the electorate. Dana claims that dual citizenship is possible, and points to De Valera, who was a US citizen by birth.

The real issue: While US courts have recognized dual citizenship in certain situations for some time, the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States involves an oath renouncing one’s other citizenships:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

There’s a legal question here: adopting US citizenship through naturalization is understood in US law, at least, to require the surrendering of other citizenships (whether or not the other countries recognize that act as taking place.

There’s also a moral question: this is a formal oath, sworn by someone who proclaims herself to be a devout Christian, which includes the phrase “without any mental reservation.” Either Dana perjured herself, or… actually, I’m not sure there’s an ‘or’ here.

Dana’s not going to be president (she’s currently 100/1 on Paddy Power) in large part because so much of what she claims to stand for – an insular and shallow version of Irishness, dog-whistling to Irish conservatives still smarting over equal pay for women and the decriminalization of homosexuality – is unpopular and increasingly a marginal perspective. However, she has wrapped this up inside a constitution-toting package, proclaiming the defense of the Irish constitution as her primary platform, and it turns out she’s already sworn to defend that of another country, and she claims not to even remember that oath? Really? Irish law – where citizenship is automatic for those, such as Dana, who are born abroad to parents born on the island of Ireland – may not recognize the renunciation of Irish citizenship, but surely Dana feels a shiver when she contemplates the oath she swore before god.

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