herald

Wednesday 21 November 2018

'I support deporting boy born here as it's the law of the land', says Hook

Eric Zhi Ying Xue was born in Ireland and has lived here all his life, but faces being deported to China
Eric Zhi Ying Xue was born in Ireland and has lived here all his life, but faces being deported to China

Broadcaster George Hook has said a nine-year-old boy who was born in Ireland and has spent his whole life here should be deported.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Hook said he supported the law which will see Eric Zhi Ying Xue sent to China, a country he has never even visited.

While feeling "terrible" for the Bray primary school student, the Newstalk presenter stood his ground after a controversial comment he made on Twitter, referring to Eric as "a Chinese boy".

The comment took aim at a Twitter post by Health Minister Simon Harris, who expressed his solidarity with Eric.

Terrible

"He should be deported because that's the law," Mr Hook said.

"Everyone seems to think that this boy is Irish, but according to our laws, he's not.

"It's truly a terrible situation, but what will happen if a similar case comes up next week with another child?

"And what would the Government do if 100 or even 1,000 children facing deportation asked to remain in this country?

"At what point do we want the law to change?"

Mr Harris has made representations in an attempt to prevent Eric's deportation.

However, Mr Hook took aim at the minister on Twitter.

"With trolly [sic] numbers at world record levels, Minister Simon Harris, is worried about a Chinese boy!!" he wrote.

There was an immediate backlash to his comments.

"Jesus, George, that's a disgraceful statement. This boy is Irish. He was born here and has never lived anywhere else," one person wrote.

Another said: "It's called 'compassion', George.

"People can care about more than one thing at once and about people other than themselves."

When contacted by the Herald, Mr Hook stood his ground.

He criticised Mr Harris, who he accused of deliberately trying to draw attention away from the trolley crisis.

"More than a decade ago, the Irish people said they didn't want to give automatic citizenship to children born in this country," Mr Hook said.

"[Justice Minister] Charlie Flanagan is in his office saying we're going to deport this boy, but Harris, who is probably the worst minister for health in the history of the State, is saying we can't.

"The only narrative in this is not out of concern for this Chinese boy, but to simply to deflect from the fact that he's doing an appalling job.

"The question at the end of the day is, do we want a country with laws or a country run by Twitter?"

In 2004, a referendum on nationality decreed that children born in Ireland to foreign parents would no longer have a constitutional right to Irish citizenship.

Mr Hook, who was suspended from the station last year following comments he made about a rape case, said he was not concerned about a backlash from his radio station.

"If I'm not allowed to have an opinion about anything or if I appear to be in favour of a country without laws then I don't think my job is worth having," the rugby pundit added.

Mr Harris could not be contacted for comment last night.

Inflammatory

In 2004, Fine Gael was the only opposition party in the Dail to support the vote to remove automatic citizenship in the referendum.

Then-leader Enda Kenny had raised concern over the timing of the referendum on the same day as the local and European elections that year.

He warned there was a probability that during an election campaign "inflammatory comments could be made about this sensitive situation".

However, in coming to the decision to support the vote, it was reported that Fine Gael had received independent legal advice about the potential to abuse Irish citizenship law.

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