The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has insisted he is ‘totally satisfied’ that the proposed citizenship referendum will not break international law or the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Ahern was responding to Labour leader, Pat Rabbitte, who raised the interim observations of the Human Rights Commission on the issue.

Mr Rabbitte asked if the Government would not listen to the Opposition or the SDLP, then would they at least listen to the Commission.

In their report, the HRC said that the referendum would create a new category of non-citizen that would have less constitutional protection.

Mr Ahern said he always listened to the views of the HRC, but they had not indicated which aspect of constitutional protection would not apply if the measure was passed into law.

Mr Ahern said they had not dealt with the fact that there are many non-national children and adults here already, who are not less protected by the Constitution.

Mr Rabbitte claimed the Taoiseach was determined to proceed despite the concern expressed by a broad range of moderate opinion, and the only reasons for doing so appeared to be political.

No need to 'get ourselves in a knot': Ahern

Mr Rabbitte said there were some matters on which the Government did not play politics, such as the North, and the citizenship issue should not be resorted to for ‘narrow electoral gain’ when there was no urgency about it.

However, Mr Ahern insisted he did not see any political advantage in the issue, and would not be campaigning on it.

Mr Ahern said he did not honestly think we should be ‘getting ourselves in a knot - our citizenship laws are too loose and we need to tighten them a bit’.