Check against delivery
Thursday 22 June 2017
The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to outline if following the triggering of Article 50 in Britain and the commencement of the Brexit negotiations, the Government has given due consideration, as part of its own negotiating stance, to amending the 2004 Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, to allow non-Irish and non-British nationals resident in the North to apply for Irish citizenship? The terms of the Good Friday Agreement, currently allows for those born anywhere on the island to qualify for Irish citizenship however this has led to much concern amongst the North's ethnic minority communities.
Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile
Opening Statement by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD
I thank the Senator for raising this matter as it gives the opportunity to clarify the issue.
The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, sets out the law governing Irish citizenship. The Act distinguishes between the entitlement to Irish citizenship by birth and descent, and to the acquisition of Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process.
In relation to citizenship through birth in the island of Ireland, the Act specifies certain residence requirements must be met immediately preceding the birth of the child where the child is born to non-nationals.
Prior to 1 January 2005, every person born in the island of Ireland was entitled to be an Irish citizen regardless of any lack of ties to Ireland. Following a Referendum of the Irish people, the 27th Amendment to the Constitution changed the situation in relation to entitlement to Irish Citizenship. As a result, the 1956 Act was amended by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2004. The changes came into effect on 1st January 2005. As and from that date a child born in the island of Ireland to certain non-nationals is not entitled to be an Irish citizen unless that child's parents have been lawfully resident in the island of Ireland for a total of 3 years during the 4 years preceding that child's birth. Periods of residence which are unlawful, or for the sole purpose of having an application for refugee status determined, or for the purposes of study, are excluded from the determination of periods of reckonable residence.
The position of foreign nationals, whether residing in the jurisdiction of the State or Northern Ireland, or indeed any other jurisdiction, is solely a matter for the authorities of the relevant jurisdiction, including where the foreign national may be a parent of an Irish citizen child. The sole fact of being the parent of an Irish citizen child does not bestow any entitlement to Irish citizenship to that parent. The grant of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is based on the individual satisfying the statutory conditions for naturalisation, which includes having the required lawful residence in the jurisdiction of this State.
It is, however, open to parents of an Irish citizen child to make an application for Irish citizenship through naturalisation if and when they fulfil the conditions for naturalisation as set out in the Act. The eligibility for a grant of Irish citizenship through naturalisation, as mentioned previously, is based on the individual having the required lawful residence in the jurisdiction of this State. Residency in the jurisdiction of the North is not reckonable under the Act for the purposes of naturalisation, except in circumstances where the application is grounded upon being the spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen.
From a Brexit perspective, I think it is important to be clear about its scope and indeed what is outside the scope of the Article 50 negotiations as they relate to residency and other rights. In this context, the negotiations are primarily concerned with the impacts on EU nationals in the UK (including Northern Ireland) and the corollary of UK nationals in the EU. This specific strand of the negotiations is being prioritised for early consideration between the negotiating parties.
This does not change the right of persons born under the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. In other words, persons may apply for Irish citizenship in accordance with the legislative changes arising from the Good Friday agreement. The question of citizenship is a national competency. Obviously Ireland is maintaining very close contact with the negotiations.