Belfast Telegraph

DeSouza case: Sinn Fein 'we are Irish' tweet criticised as 'fake news'

The tweet sparked a huge reaction.
The tweet sparked a huge reaction.
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Sinn Fein has been accused of "fake news" and misleading the public over a tweet which claimed the UK Government was removing the rights of Northern Ireland people to be Irish citizens.

The tweet was in response to a tribunal finding people born in Northern Ireland were British.

It found the 1998 Good Friday Agreement - which states people can identify as British, Irish or both - did not supersede the British Nationality Act of 1981. Meaning the law did not recognise identity, but rather citizenship.

The ruling sparked anger among nationalists and republicans.

Jonathan Powell - who was Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief of staff during the talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement said the matter "needed sorting out".

He told the BBC: "I understand that the legislation that's being appealed pre-dated the Good Friday Agreement, so no-one got round to bringing the legislation into line with an international binding treaty.

"So somebody somewhere in government will have to sort this out.

"I suspect that this is just sloppiness that someone never thought about the legislative implications of it."

Sinn Fein, on Tuesday morning posted a tweet claiming the UK Government was "removing your right to Irish citizenship".

"Don't let them get away with it," the party said urging people to tweet their objection.

The tweet was accompanied by a video which stated the Government had ruled "everyone in the north is British".

It said the verdict was "directly attacking the 1998 agreement" with a highlighted quote from the Good Friday Agreement.

"Don't let them get away with it," it added calling for people to "defend your agreement" and "your right to be Irish".

It was accompanied with images of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The 35-second video has been watched over 100,000 times with thousands of retweets and likes.

However, many of those responding described the claims as false and misleading.

They pointed out the government was not ruling people were British, but rather an immigration tribunal ruled on a point of existing UK law which predated the Good Friday Agreement.

Others pointed out the right to be Irish was a concern for the administration in Dublin and could not be taken away by a UK Government.

"Bréagnuacht/fake news," was one response.

"This is just a lie," tweeted Alliance leader and MEP Naomi Long.

"There is an issue which needs addressed regarding the presumption of British citizenship for everyone born in NI but it does not remove anyone's Irish citizenship."

In response Sinn Fein said in a statement: " The British government has failed to act on its commitments on citizenship in line with the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Good Friday Agreement clearly states that people born in the north are entitled to be British, Irish or both.

"This decision from a British court has caused considerable anger among the nationalist and republican community.

"The British government is failing in its duty to implement the Good Friday Agreement on this and other issues."

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