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George Hook faces backlash over comments about Bray boy facing deportation

Minister Simon Harris was critical of Hook’s comments.

File photo: VETERAN BROADCASTER George Hook has been suspended from Newstalk Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said he will “never apologise” for standing up for a boy in his constituency after broadcaster George Hook said he was “cynical” and that Harris was worried about a “Chinese boy” when trolley numbers were at “world record levels”. 

In a series of tweets yesterday, the Newstalk presenter said that politicians were “whinging about this unfortunate child” and that it was because of the law that he faced deportation. 

Eric Zhi Ying Mei Xue, a 4th class pupil in St Cronan’s, was born in Ireland, but he is not a citizen. He is now facing deportation to China.

Leena Mei Mei Xue, Eric’s mother, arrived in Ireland 12 years ago. However, a deportation order was served against her in 2015. She has appealed the order over the last three years. Her last appeal, however, was rejected in June. 

Wicklow TD Harris has made appeals on the boy’s behalf, petitioning for him to remain in the country. 

“I have made representations to the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to Eric’s situation. I have appealed for Eric to remain in Ireland on humanitarian grounds,” he told TheJournal.ie.

He added:

Quite frankly, Eric is Irish. He was born here, goes to school here and has never lived anywhere else. This is his home. This is his country. I really hope common sense can prevail.

Hook tweeted yesterday: “If this unfortunate child was Irish he could not be deported. The law was changed without a dissenting voice on Twitter… The cynical use of an innocent by the Minister for Health worked; not a single tweet of outrage abouts the thousands of Irish left without a bed.”

Responding to Hook’s tweets, Harris said: “Will never apologise for standing up for a young boy in my constituency. That’s my job. Honoured to do it. Speaking up and speaking out is what my employers – the people of Wicklow expect me to do.”

Matt Cooper, a colleague of Hook’s at Communicorp – which employs Hook for a weekend show on Newstalk and Cooper for a weekday show on Today FM -  also expressed support for Eric.

“At Last Word, Today FM, we believe that this Irish boy is worthy of our programme’s support,” he tweeted. 

As explained here, the law applying in this boy’s case is a result of a 2004 referendum.

In what was a divise campaign, those behind it claimed immigrants from outside of Europe were deliberately coming into Ireland in the latter stages of pregnancy, in order to have children who were EU citizens. 

The vote on 11 June 2004 passed by a majority of 79% and introduced the 27th amendment to the constitution:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, a person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, who does not have, at the time of the birth of that person, at least one parent who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen is not entitled to Irish citizenship or nationality, unless provided for by law.

The law removed the automatic right to citizenship of infants born in the republic of Ireland, unless one of their parents was an Irish citizen. 

However the amendment states this can be altered by legislators if members of the Oireachtas choose to do so, “unless provided for by law”. 

Another recent case saw Tullamore teenager Nonso Muojeke and his family granted leave to remain in Ireland

With reporting from Christina Finn, Aisling O’Rourke

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Sean Murray

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