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    Will Australian rugby suffer from enhanced Irish citizenship rules?

    By Noreen Bowden | March 31, 2009

    Australian rugby fans may be living in fear of a suggestion by Taoiseach Brian Cowen that Ireland may soon allow people with an Irish great-grandparent easier access to citizenship – at least that’s what “The Australian” newspaper suggests.

    The newspaper points out that Australian and New Zealand clubs have been suffering from player drain to wealthy clubs in Europe and Japan, where they can make significantly more money. Previously, Australian rugby officials lobbied the IRB to abolish the rule that allowed Australians with European grandparents to play as locals in Europe.

    The newspaper says:

    ARU chief executive John O’Neill is proud of his Irish heritage, but it is unlikely he would have been too pleased with an announcement by the Irish Government on St Patrick’s Day.

    Thousands of Australians will find it easier to take out Irish citizenship after the announcement that foreigners with an Irish great-grand parent would be eligible.

    At present, Ireland requires a person to have at least one Irish grand parent to claim ancestral right to citizenship.
    But Ireland has decided to loosen the rules to extend naturalisation rights to people who are one generation further away from their Irish roots.

    As a result of the Irish diaspora of over 80 million people, this initiative will have political and social ramifications around the globe, including the world of rugby.

    In particular, Australian and New Zealand rugby will be significantly affected.

    If you have Irish citizenship, you also carry with it a coveted European Union passport, which gives you the right to live and work in 27 nations – and that applies to professional rugby players as much as anyone else.

    The Irish government has not released further details on the proposed change, however. The suggestion that it would be expanding citizenship rights was made by Taoiseach Brian Cowen as he launched a strategic review of US-Ireland relations in New York during his St Patrick’s Day visit.

    Related webpages:

    The Australian: Ancestral nightmare for ARU and John O’Neill

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