Ireland is the only EU member state which affords automatic citizenship rights to all children born in the country.

The Government has said that asylum seekers with children born in Ireland will continue to be given special leave to stay. 

Evening prayers in the Haroub household, and Mohamed and his children read extracts from the Koran.

A family at prayer in the living room has obvious echoes of a once-common Irish tradition.

The Haroubs fled the Somali civil war two years ago with three small children. Their fourth, Kamal, was born here and is an Irish citizen. The family is seeking permission to remain in Ireland, based on Kamal’s citizenship, and Mohamed wants them to be part of Irish society. 

If they will have a chance without prejudice, they’ll contribute and they’ll do a lot of things in this country.

Ireland is in the process of becoming a more multicultural society. In 1992, there were 39 asylum applications. In 1999 there have been just under five and a half thousand.  

Following a 1990 Supreme Court ruling, parents of Irish-born children are now allowed to remain in the State, and the recent signing of the British-Irish Agreement strengthens this position,

Now anyone born on the island of Ireland is entitled to be part of the Irish nation.

Tony O’Riordan, SJ (Society of Jesus) of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice says that because children naturally mix, they are a primary factor in helping communities get to know one another. As a result,

It breaks down this label of asylum seeker.

And like many families who have come to live in Ireland from overseas, the issue of raising children in two different cultures will be part of life for them, says Mohamed,

I will teach our culture and language...but at the end of the day when he becomes an adult he will make his own decision.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 8 December 1999. The reporter is Tony Connelly.