Australian minister quits cabinet because he might be Italian

Matt Canavan has quit the Australian cabinet because his mother told him he might be Italian - and therefore ineligible to be an MP
Suzanne McGonagle and PA

AN Australian government minister has quit the cabinet because his mother told him he might be Italian - and therefore ineligible to be an MP.

Resources minister Matt Canavan's shock announcement followed the recent resignations of two senators who discovered days apart that they had technically never been elected because they are dual citizens.

Australia's constitution states that a "citizen of a foreign power" is not eligible to be elected to parliament.

Mr Canavan said his mother contacted him last week with news that he might be Italian after publicity surrounding the resignations of the minor Greens party's co-deputy leaders Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters.

His predicament is embarrassing for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who had ridiculed the Greens over their bungled screening of ineligible candidates, and could force a cabinet reshuffle.

It is also not the first time that high-profile figures have been forced to resign because of the ineligibility.

One famous case was footballer Tony Cascarino, who made a record 88 appearances for the Republic of Ireland, but did not hold an Irish passport and had never been eligible to play for the country.

Speaking of the time his ineligibility was revealed, he said: "I didn't qualify for Ireland. I was a fraud. A fake Irishman".

Cascarino was first called up for the Republic in 1985, believing his maternal grandfather Michael O'Malley from Westport made him eligible under the 'one grandparent' rule.

But in retirement, it emerged Cascarino had subsequently discovered - after 66 caps - that his mother had in fact been adopted, and was therefore not a blood relative to the grandfather.

It raised the question as to whether or not he was eligible to play for Ireland. But his mother later gained the right to Irish citizenship and Cascarino was deemed eligible.

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