295. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the timing of citizenship ceremonies will be examined in cases in which a ceremony takes place after the deadline for the supplementary register; if other options will be made available for persons wishing to take their oath of affirmation prior to the deadline in view of the inability of new citizens to update their citizenship details after the deadline for the supplementary register of electors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20911/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Formal citizenship ceremonies were introduced in June 2011 for the first time since the foundation of the State. The ceremonies, which have been met with universal approval, are held at no extra cost to applicants, allow large numbers of candidates for citizenship make their statutory declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State and receive their certificate of naturalisation.
In accordance with the law, the oath of fidelity must be sworn before a judge. Prior to the introduction of the ceremonies, each individual applicant was required to attend their local District Court to swear the oath and this was done as part of the normal business of the court on the day that usually included a range of other business both criminal and civil. Apart from taking up valuable court time, it was considered that a dedicated ceremony would provide a much more meaningful and dignified manner for swearing the oath, befitting the importance and solemnity of the occasion. Accordingly, there are no plans to revert to this practice or to introduce alternatives to the ceremonies.
Citizenship ceremony days take place periodically throughout the year. The organisation of a ceremony day which can involve over 3,500 applicants, together with their family and friends, is a significant logistical exercise usually taking a number of months to organise. To date, 131 such ceremonies have been held at which around 83,000 candidates have become Irish citizens. On 21 May next a further 3,500 persons will be conferred with Irish citizenship.
Extensive coordination is required to establish a date for ceremonies. Not only does a venue have to be sourced and dates agreed, the Presiding Officers and Ministerial speakers need to be available on the day. The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department also liaises closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with regard to ceremony day dates as there is an inevitable rise in demand for passports following ceremonies. This is a complex logistical exercise and to attempt to dovetail dates with the closing date of the supplementary register would make the entire process unworkable.
The date for the next ceremony which is scheduled for 21 May was announced on the website www.inis.gov.ie on 5 March 2018, which was prior to the announcement of the date of the upcoming referendum.