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Question

190. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average processing times for applications (details supplied). [14594/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the numbers of applications for naturalisation for the period from 2014 to date, broken down under the main categories referred to by the Deputy, are as provided in the following table:

 -    2014      2015      2016      2017         2018* 
EU/EEA (of which UK in brackets) 2,600 (50) 3,500 (70) 5,200 (570)  5,000 (860)  1,000 (170)
Non EU/EEA 12,900 9,200 7,900  6,900  1,500
Total Applications Received 15,500 12,700 13,100  11,900  2,500

* 2018 figures are provisional.
Records are not maintained which would facilitate the production of the further detailed information requested by the Deputy.  The retrieval and compilation of this information would necessitate a disproportionate use of time and resources which could not be justified in circumstances where the priority is to deal with the cases on hand.  
The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended.  Every application for naturalisation is considered on its individual merits and in accordance with the provisions of the Act.  As the grant of naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union level, it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.  There is no preferential treatment in respect of particular nationalities.
It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay.  While most straightforward cases are generally processed within six months, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time particularly with regard to establishing whether the statutory conditions for naturalisation as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, such as good character and lawful residence, are satisfied.
In many cases delays can arise as further documentation may be required from the applicant, or payment of the required certificate fee is awaited, or the applicant has not been engaging with the office.  In some instances delays can arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example where information comes to light which requires further investigation.  In other instances the applicant may request that a hold be put on their application, for example where they may have returned to their country of origin for a prolonged period, to facilitate them in making arrangements to return to reside in the State, or where they have difficulty in obtaining satisfactory evidence of their identity or nationality.