Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill, 1985: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I want to express my satisfaction on bringing forward this measure which deals with several issues and knowing that its passage has been commenced in this House. It joins on the Order Paper another important Bill, the Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Bill, 1985. While both of these Bills may not be important in the context of their application to a great number of people, they are important in establishing once and for all the principle of equality between men and women before the law. As long as our laws reflect different treatment for citizens, that difference being based on their sex, Irish women cannot feel equal in many areas. Legal equality is an absolute prerequisite to any other action or programme for women's liberation.

Some people may claim that in this Bill some women, for example, foreign spouses who marry Irish men, are treated less favourably than heretofore, that they will lose a privilege based on sex. Women do not want privileges or patronge. They are seeking and are entitled to equal treatment, equality before the law, which reflects their full citizenship and equality with others. When the sex treatment differential was written into the 1956 Act, in debates in this House and in the Seanad there is no evidence that any speaker contested such an approach. I know that in 1955 or 1956, well before the emergence of the contemporary women's movement or, indeed, the UN decade for women, such issues illustrated the importance of women's voices in society in general and of their involvement in the political structure.

The purpose of this Bill is to make a number of changes in the law concerning the acquisition of Irish citizenship by aliens.

The most important of the changes proposed is the elimination of the unequal treatment between men and women in conditions to be compiled with for the acquisition of citizenship by aliens married to Irish citizens. The other changes proposed relate to the present requirement of giving one year's notice of intention to apply for citizenship, the operative date for persons of Irish descent who acquire citizenship by registration, and a provision to enable favourable conditions to be applied to refugees and stateless persons who apply for Irish citizenship.

As I have already said, the most important change proposed is that relating to the acquisition of citizenship by foreign spouses of Irish nationals. In order to explain the reason for the proposed change I intend, first of all, to outline the present position as regards the acquisition of citizenship by foreign spouses. I will then deal with the thinking behind the existing legislation and refer also to the position in other EEC countries. Then I will explain the reason for the specific changes now proposed in the Bill.

The law on Irish citizenship is contained in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956. The Act lays down, inter alia, the conditions under which aliens generally may acquire citizenship by the process of naturalisation. Section 15 of the Act provides for the conditions under which a certificate of naturalisation may be granted by the Minister for Justice. The conditions include residence in the country amounting to five years in the nine year period immediately preceding the application. This includes a period of one year's continuous residence in the State immediately before the date of application. Other requirements relate to age, character, notice of intention to apply, intention to reside in the State after naturalisation, and the making of a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State before a justice of the District Court.

The conditions I have mentioned relate to aliens generally. The position in relation to foreign spouses of Irish nationals is different, however. Section 8 of the Act deals with the position of foreign wives of Irish citizens, otherwise than by naturalisation. That provides that the alien wife of an Irish citizen, otherwise than by naturalisation, shall not become an Irish citizen merely by virtue of her marriage but may do so by lodging a declaration in the prescribed manner with the Minister, or any Irish diplomatic mission or consular office, either before or at any time after the marriage accepting Irish citizenship as her post-nuptial citizenship.

The position of the foreign husbands of Irish women is dealt with under section 16 of the Act. That section provides that the Minister may dispense with the conditions of naturalisation in certain cases, including where the applicant is married to a woman who is an Irish citizen, otherwise than by naturalisation. Down through the years the administrative practice in relation to foreign husbands of Irish citizens has been to reduce the normal five years residence requirement to two years residence.

It is important to note that foreign wives of Irish citizens, otherwise than by naturalisation, have an absolute right to citizenship under the Act. Foreign husbands of Irish citizens do not have such a right. As with all applicants for naturalisation, the granting or withholding of naturalisation to them is at the absolute discretion of the Minister. Accordingly, a foreign husband of an Irish woman has no right to naturalisation. The Minister may grant him naturalisation but it is at his discretion. It is this in-built discrimination on the basis of sex that is being removed.

The provisions of the 1956 Act were drafted having regard to thinking on nationality that obtained 30 years ago. This did not consider the issue of sexual equality or equal treatment. That thinking may have reflected social mores internationally in the mid-fifties. Indeed, legislation of other countries governing acquisition of citizenship by foreign spouses has had similar in-built discrimination against women.

In recent years there has been a considerable amount of change in legislation relating to citizenship in our EEC neighbouring countries. As regards citizenship for foreign spouses, where changes have been made the general trend has been to provide for similar requirements in relation to both foreign wives and foreign husbands of nationals. In most cases unequal treatment as between men and women in this area has been eliminated. This trend is, of course, a reflection of the changed circumstances since the fifties and the assertion of woman for equal rights in all areas of law. It is not uncommon for the husband to go to the country of his wife's nationality.

I would like to quote from one international document which reflects the changed thinking internationally on the question of citizenship of foreign spouses of nationals. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted Resolution (77) 12 on the Nationality of Spouses of Different Nationalities on 27 May 1977. In the resolution the Committee of Ministers recommends to governments of member states:

(1) To move towards eliminating distinctions in the conditions under which their nationality may be acquired by the foreign husbands of their nationals, as compared to the foreign wives;

(2) To proceed, from now on, to the arrangements necessary at the internal level to accord to the foreign husband of their nationals, for the acquisition of nationality, a treatment as close as possible to that granted to the foreign wives of their nationals;

(3) Not to require, for the acquisition of their nationality by the foreign spouse of a national, more than five years residence in their territory including not more than three years of residence after the marriage;

(4) To provide, in any event, that foreign spouses of their nationals may acquire their nationality on more favourable conditions than those generally required of other aliens.

Further evidence of changed thinking can be seen from an examination of legislation on this matter, among our EEC colleagues. The general trend there has been to eliminate inequality.

There were many ways in which the unequal treatment in our 1956 Act could be eliminated. One could provide that foreign husbands of Irish nationals would be entitled to obtain citizenship by declaration in the same manner as foreign wives may do so at present. On the other hand, one could provide that acquisition of citizenship by foreign wives in future would be by way of naturalisation and that the two years residence and other normal conditions would apply to foreign wives in the same way that they apply to foreign husbands of Irish nationals at present. Various options were considered and the Government decided that the Bill should provide that both foreign wives and foreign husbands of Irish nationals should have a right to citizenship after three years of marriage. In deciding on this solution the Government had regard to the trend in changes in international legislation on this topic, and also, of course, to the needs of families of mixed nationality where one of the parents is Irish.

I know that many Irish women married to foreigners feel that the current position is unfair to their families. I have, since I entered politics in 1980, had representations from Irish women living abroad seeking help to resolve difficulties in the way of their return to this country. The husbands in these cases could not obtain citizenship unless they had two years residence in the State.

I am personally very pleased that unequal treatment which has obtained in this area will be eliminated by the Bill. I think it will be of vital importance to many families where the wife is Irish but the husband is foreign, and remove a serious barrier, and often an insurmountable barrier, to the family settling in Ireland. But above all it is one more legislative move to ensuring that none of our laws maintain obvious inequality to Irish women.

Perhaps I should refer at this stage to Ireland's accession in December last to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. One of the reservations entered by Ireland on acceding to the convention reads as follows:

Pending the proposed amendment to the law relating to citizenship, which is at an advanced stage, Ireland reserves the right to retain the provisions in its existing law concerning the acquisition of citizenship on marriage.

That particular reservation was framed in the manner I have just read because of the intention to introduce the Bill we are now considering, which will change the present law which differentiates between men and women as regards acquisition of citizenship by foreign spouses. When this Bill becomes law, this reservation can be deleted.

The House may be interested in some statistics in relation to the acquisition of citizenship last year. In 1985, 513 women acquired Irish citizenship on the lodgment of a declaration in relation to marriage to an Irish citizen under section 8 of the Act. The number of foreign husbands of Irish citizens who were granted certificates of naturalisation, on the other hand, was only 81. It is not possible to say at this stage what the effect of the Bill will be on statistics in this area. However, it may be that more foreign husbands of Irish women resident abroad will seek to acquire citizenship subsequent to the passing of this legislation. It had not been possible for them to do so heretofore because of the residence requirement in the 1956 Act. We may also see a fall initially in the number of foreign women married to Irishmen obtaining Irish citizenship. Presumably people who wish to take Irish citizenship in such instances do so mainly at the time of the marriage. Under the new legislation they will have to wait for three years.

I referred earlier to the fact that citizenship for foreign spouses will be obtainable for both husbands and wives under Part 2 of the Act in future. There are differences between citizenship acquired under Part 2 and that acquired under Part 3 of the Act. One difference is that citizenship under Part 2 cannot be revoked whereas citizenship obtained under Part 3 can. The circumstances under which the Minister for Justice may revoke naturalisation are set out in section 19 of the 1956 Act. A second difference is that the spouse of a person Irish by naturalisation cannot get citizenship by making a declaration accepting Irish citizenship.

Deputies will note that section 8 (1) as inserted by section 3 of the Bill stipulates that a declaration may not be lodged earlier than three years from the date of the marriage and that the marriage must be subsisting at the date of the lodgment of the declaration. On the question of the marriage being subsisting, I should mention for the information of the House that it is intended to provide by statutory instrument that an affidavit will be required by the Irish spouse to the effect that the marriage has subsisted for at least three years. The other documentary proofs which already apply in the case of a foreign wife making a declaration at present, will, of course, also apply in the future, that is, a marriage certificate and the Irish spouse's birth certificate will be required.

As will be clear from what I have said, the provisions now proposed could mean a longer waiting period for Irish citizenship for some people compared with the current arrangements. I have mentioned already that a foreign woman marrying an Irishman can get Irish citizenship immediately at present by lodging a declaration. In the future she may not do so until three years after the marriage. Because this change in requirements could result in delay in some individual cases, section 6 of the Bill provides for a transitional period during which a foreign spouse of an Irish national will continue to be entitled to obtain or apply for Irish citizenship under the terms of the 1956 Act.

The provision in the Bill relating to the elimination of discrimination between men and women in the acquisition of citizenship that I have been talking about is, of course, the most important provision in the Bill. I did mention, however, that there are other provisions and I intend to deal with them fairly quickly now.

Section 2 of the Bill proposes to amend section 7 (2) of the Act. Section 7 (2) provides for descendants of Irish persons obtaining Irish citizenship by registration. The effect of registration is that the person is regarded as Irish from birth. The change proposed is that Irish citizenship will apply only from the date of registration. It is understood that this was the intention of the section when it was originally drafted in 1956. The practical effect will be that children of people registering will be entitled to obtain Irish citizenship by registration only if they were born after the date of registration by the parent from whom they derive a right to citizenship.

Section 4 of the Bill proposes to reenact section 15 of the 1956 Act with the omission of the requirement that a person give one year's notice of intention of applying for naturalisation. In practice this provision has been found not to serve any useful purpose and, on the contrary, to have proved to be a cause of delay in certain cases where there was no other need for delay. Accordingly the provision is being omitted from the proposed new section 15.

Section 16 of the 1956 Act is also being revised. This is being done by section 5 of the Bill. The main change here is that power is being given to the Minister for Justice to dispense with the conditions for naturalisation in the case of refugees and stateless persons. Under the 1956 Act there was no special provision for refugees and stateless persons as regards naturalisation. Accordingly the conditions that applied to adult aliens generally applied to them. They have to have been here for five years and comply in full with all of the other conditions provided for in section 15 of the Act.

This country is a party to the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees. Article 34 of the convention relates to naturalisation and reads as follows:

The contracting states shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalisation of refugees. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalisation proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings.

Under the power now proposed in relation to refugees and stateless persons the Minister will be able to dispense with the statutory conditions for naturalisation in their case. It is the intention to apply a three-year residence requirement to refugees and stateless persons instead of the five years residence requirement of general application.

Article 34 of the 1951 Geneva Convention also refers to reducing as far as possible the charges and costs of naturalisation proceedings. It is intended to amend the statutory instruments relating to naturalisation to provide for nominal fees for naturalisation for refugees and stateless persons and also to reduce the formalities attaching to naturalisation in their case.

To sum up, I would like to say that I see this Bill as being an important change in our legislation on citizenship, particularly as it relates to the elimination of discrimination against women. The 1956 Act has resulted in hardship for some families and, in my view, has led to justifiable grievance in the case of couples where the wife was Irish and the husband not, when they compared their position with that of couples where the husband was the Irish citizen. The Bill provides an important change for women but also for a number of other changes which, even though they are likely to affect only a small number of cases, nevertheless will be important to the individuals affected by them.

I am satisfied that the provisions in the Bill represent a balanced approach to a number of problems that have arisen under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956.

I commend the Bill to the House.

We welcome the Bill and support the Minister, although we may have some proposals to make on Committee Stage. The Minister has presented the Bill in a very explicit way as being in favour of women as distinct from being in favour of men. However, she said that foreign wives of Irish citizens have an absolute right to citizenship under the Act. Those women will lose their absolute right.

Which they have only got through their husbands.

Foreign husbands of Irish citizens who do not have that right will now get imporved rights. It is not quite so straightforward in terms of the provisions vis-á-vis men and women when one comes to examine it.

It is straightforward with regard to equal rights.

Nevertheless, it does offer to women the opportunity to bring in a husband. I was surprised the Minister did not refer to the Somjee versus the Attorney General case which examined the whole question of discrimination in some detail.

This is certainly "men's lib" for foreign husbands of Irish citizens who will now be given a right they did not previously have. In general, we would like to see the situation in which a wife could bring in a foreign husband as readily as a man could bring in a foreign wife.

The Bill extends the circumstances in which an alien may apply for Irish nationality and citizenship and allows the Minister to dispense with conditions of naturalisation in certain cases. It comes at a time when our sense of nationality and self-esteem is at a very low ebb. Notwithstanding our small size as a nation and the physical, economic and cultural dominance of our nearest neighbour, we have traditionally been proud to assert our nationhood at every opportunity and to insist on our independence and sovereignty in contribution to international affairs. Citizens in the Republic of Ireland can take pride in the fact that we have developed democratic institutions which command the respect of the nations of the world. Our constitutional, legal and judicial safeguards provide vital guarantees to any aspiring citizen and ensure that their human rights and civil liberties will be protected and vindicated. In these circumstances it is not surprising that foreigners, or aliens as they are called in the Act, should apply to Ireland for citizenship where they can enjoy human rights and civil liberties.

It is important that we recognise the fundamental importance of our Constitution and legislation in this respect, and our willingness to bring that legislation up to date, as the Minister for Justice seems to be doing at the moment to safeguard those who are taken into custody — special safeguards are being provided for them while they are in custody.

Although Part II of the Act which we are now amending provides that every person born in the 32 counties of Ireland is an Irish citizen from birth, it also provides de facto that because of Partition such persons in Northern Ireland will not be Irish citizens unless they declare themselves as such. Because it is British justice that rules in Northern Ireland, we cannot guarantee religious or civil liberties there. The supergrass trials and the discredited Diplock courts are features of British rule in Northern Ireland — they have no place or counterpart in the Republic.

People who apply for citizenship here will know that here in the Republic we have a very democratic constitutionallybased system of justice. The attempts by the British Attorney General to whitewash the supergrass injustices will cut no ice with Fianna Fáil. Yesterday's Cork Examiner reported the British Attorney General, Sir Michael Havers, as having said that the use of evidence is perfectly legitimate and “it is indeed the duty of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland to have recourse to it whenever he considers it is in the public interest that a prosecution should be instituted and pursued on that basis”. The report continued:

Sir Michael's comments followed speculation in the North, that the trials of people relying on the uncorroborated evidence of "supergrasses" would cease following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Accord.

The Act states that people in Northern Ireland have an automatic right to citizenship here, but because of Partition they will have to make a suitable declaration. Those who come here to seek citizenship will receive fair treatment and justice. The British allegation that supergrass trials are justifiable and are a satisfactory way to treat citizens is totally without foundation. The British Attorney General spoke about the evidence of accomplices, but in Britain the jury system applies just as it applies generally here.

I am sure the House will be interested to know that, under the Northern Ireland Electoral Act of 1962, an Irish citizen who moves from the Republic to reside in Northern Ireland is excluded specifically in voting in local elections there. Electors must have all the qualifications specified in Part I of their Act. This is an ironic discrimination when we consider that here we always have allowed people from the North living here to vote in our elections. Indeed, recently we extended to British citizens resident here the right to vote in our general elections. I hope that in her reply the Minister will clarify this because I have received a number of queries from Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland who will not be allowed to vote there. I should like to know what action the Minister proposes to take to remedy this.

I get annoyed day after day when I have to listen to the Taoiseach and people from Britain criticising our Act, and our Constitution, and our liberties, and our society, and our pluralism because we can see quite clearly the major discriminations and weaknesses against Irish citizens in Northern Ireland. The Government must give their attention to this.

Irish nationality and citizenship impose also a duty of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State. The Minister in her introductory speech used the same terms when she spoke of the declaration to be made in open court. In this age of cynicism and widespread materialism we must not forget that we are a nation and that this Bill is about nationality. I will not reduce the Bill to an instrument of mere additions and subtractions. The Bill is about the aspirations of people outside the country to join us in the development and promotion of the nation. If we lose out soul, our sense of nationhood and community, we will have nothing. Our forefathers and predecessors here so valued our nation that they were prepared to give their lives and to suffer hardship and deprivation to assert their nationality and their freedom of expression, not only here in the House but throughout the world. I did not like listening to the Minister for Foreign Affairs a short time ago trying to suppress this right to free expression of Irish Members of Parliament.

He was speaking about loyalty to the State.

Any deals that are done between our Government and any other government will be subject to our right as an Opposition to express our nationhood and our aspirations. Quite frequently this is misrepresented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach. We are not prepared to forfeit our right to value our nationhood and express our nationality and our aspirations. Our generation has been dominated by economists and statisticians. The Coalition Government are preoccupied with book-keeping, banking and international dealing and have forgotten our Irishness. It is our privilege to assert our sense of nationhood and promote our citizens and our country and to make Ireland a place where people would want to bring their wives and husbands to live in increasing numbers. This Bill will facilitate this. The concept of nationality has important implications for our Departments of State. Are they about the work of the nation? Have they fallen into careless ways? From where do they derive their impetus and sense of direction? Is it from the well of nationhood that springs in the hearts of many Irish men and women? Has our strong sense of national pride been eroded by the newer philosophies?

We in this House follow honourable men whose clear commitment to the nation and its citizens was never in question. Only the means of serving the people brought disagreement. It was clear to all that our distinguished predecessors were about the task of building the nation and presenting it to the world. This Government is a Coalition of soulless mechanics tinkering with the economy and with legislation. We must be about greater things than this if we are to inspire confidence and commitment. We must be concerned with the progress of the nation and the rights of our citizens. What value has nationality and citizenship if our Government do not believe in the nation and its destiny? Why bother to extend such nationality and introduce new members to the club if we do not value, defend and vindicate Irish citizens, wherever they may be and their right to determine the kind of society they want. Our Constitution represents the will of the people. If the Government have other ideas they should put them to the people and not try to slip them in by the back door.

The Constitution requires us to cherish all our citizens equally. Today unemployment and emigration are rampant. The Government are not employing our resources in the interests of all our citizens. They are prepared to allow 240,000 citizens to be on the dole.

Will the Deputy come back to the Bill now?

This is a Bill on Irish nationality and citizenship and I am talking about the nationality to which people are aspiring. I am talking about the nation people wish to join. That relates to the Bill.

We want to talk about the nation in which women want to live.

I am talking about that.

The Deputy has not once mentioned discrimination against women.

Acting Chairman

Order, order.

There is plenty of time, there is no rush.

It is so low on the Deputy's priorities that it is interesting.

Acting Chairman

Order, order.

If the Deputy waits I will get around to that point. In fact, the Deputy should be concerned that now that the Government are bringing women in, they are putting a three year ban on them.

The Deputy does not begin to understand the fundamental——

At the moment if a man comes here his wife gets automatic citizenship but a woman cannot bring in a husband.

That is what it is all about.

In bringing about equalisation what the Minister is doing is implementing a three year delay.

That is a disgraceful allegation.

Did the Deputy not read the Bill or the Minister' speech?


Acting Chairman

Deputy Barnes will have an opportunity to speak later. Deputy Woods without interruption, please.

The issue raised by Deputy Barnes is one of the principal issues in this Bill, an issue which I will take up on Committee Stage. The Second Stage debate is to enable Members to consider the Bill in broad terms and point out what else might be in the Bill and what the Government might be doing instead. Committee Stage is a stage when we get down to the nuts and bolts and when we look at the waiting periods and try to elicit from the Minister his reasons for imposing the three year delay and the complications it will present.

How are citizens being treated at the moment? One sector is being forced to emigrate and another sector have no opportunities. That refers to our citizens. We want out citizens to remain to help to build this country but they are being forced to emigrate. Our people are taking their skills elsewhere in a nationally damaging brain drain. The Government are aware of that.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy will have opportunities for debating that. This Bill is concerned with the acquisition of Irish citizenship by aliens. We should address ourselves to the Bill.

This Bill is to amend the 1956 Act. I am talking about how we are treating people under 1956 act.


I am talking also about what amendments could be made in this area. I would be grateful if the Chair would allow me to proceed to make my points. I am entitled to ask what value do the Coalition put on citizenship. I should not be suppressed by the Chair or the Members on the other side of the House. It would be simple for us to withdraw and leave the Chair and the Government to carry on alone. This Bill is to amend citizenship and I am talking about citizenship and how our citizens will be treated. They are being treated equally at the moment in that they are being forced to emigrate in this brain drain.

I will now look at the conditions which other countries apply in relation to the people they will take in. I trust that the Chair recognises the rationale for looking at what other countries do in these circumstances. As we know, people are leaving the country in great numbers for the United States where there are also conditions for citizenship. They say that their most accurate record of the increased interest in immigration to the United States is in the number of petitions field at the Embassy. In most cases a petition is filed by an American citizen who desires to grant immigrant status to family members. They say that the number of petitions filed has increased by 61 per cent in the past year, that is, in people from here applying to go to the United States.

They maintain that the average age of an adult immigrant is 29, that most have completed secondary education and a significant percentage have some third level or technical training as well. They say that nearly all applicants were employed in Ireland at the time of the immigrant visa application, and they give reasons for people wanting to go there. They stress that there is virtually no waiting period for an Irish citizen who is entitled to immigrate, as an immediate relative, not subject to numerical limitations, or under the first, third or fourth preference categories. The third category is comprised of qualified members of certain professions and persons of exceptional ability in the arts and sciences whose services are required by an employer in the United States. They are the people principally being taken into the United States at present.

The legislation in the United States in relation to Irish citizen bears some examination in the context of what we are proposing here in the context of the representations we should be making for our citizens in relation to rights of immigration. An Irish citizen is defined in the 1956 Act as a citizen of Ireland which, in turn, means the national territory as defined in Article 2 of the Constitution. The national territory consits of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and territorial seas. Every person born in Ireland is an Irish citizen from birth but, pending the reintegration of the national territory, the Principal Act, states, in section 7, that this automatic citizenship shall not apply to a person born in Northern Ireland on or after 6 December 1922 unless that person declares himself or his parent or guardian declares him to be an Irish citizen. In practice many Irish men and women born in Northern Ireland aspire to Irish nationhood and hold Irish citizenship.

It is true that the Taoiseach and his Fine Gael Party have repeatedly declared their desire to remove Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Effectively this would remove our constitutional claim to the Northern Six Counties but it would also deprive Irish men and women there of their automatic entitlement to Irish citizenship. Fortunately the Taoiseach cannot implement this plan without the consent of the Irish people by way of referendum. We in Fianna Fáil would strongly oppose any such proposal.

Indeed, this was emphasised to us when Mr. Tom King, the Northern Secretary, as reported in The Irish Times of 18 March 1986, warned of the effects of Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution and suggested that we should be amending our Constitution, that those Articles were not suitable from their point of view. I am pointing out that these Articles were not suitable from their point of view. I am pointing out that these Articles were not suitable from their point of view. I am pointing out that these Articles have very important implications for those in the North of Ireland who would aspire to Irish citizenship. One might not think of it normally. It is only when one comes to examine a Bill like this, when one talks about extending citizenship, that one comes to recognise the reality of the constitutional implications for citizenship which exist at present and the dangers involved in some of the proposals.

The Minister here this morning referred to various international conventions and Acts. For example, the Minister referred to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and to other European Conventions. Already the Coalition Government have taken steps which could undermine the position of Irish citizens, North and South, and remove the constitutional protection and support which they have hitherto enjoyed, for example, by signing the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism without at the same time entering any reservations or declarations. The Minister quite rightly pointed to reservations entered on other conventions signed. But, in the case of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, no reservation or declaration was entered by the Government. In not doing so I believe the Government have committed a rushed and ill-considered act. In contrast other countries entered reservations — for example, the Federal Republic of Germany, a country with a very fine legal and justice system, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Greece and Cyprus — although having signed the Convention they also entered the reservation that they will not extradite their national citizens.

I would suggest that the Deputy is not addressing himself to the principle of this Bill. He seems to be straying into all kinds of areas.

I am speaking about the rights of Irish citizens. We are dealing with a Bill to amend and extend citizenship. These men and women who come to join Ireland will now find that one of their rights has been altered by this Convention. The Minister cannot be selective in picking conventions which suit the argument and ignoring others which might not, or which might provide some slight embarrassment. The right of citizenship is what we are talking about this morning, the right of these people and their aspirations to nationality and citizenship. Do Irish citizens and nationals not merit similar protection to that of their German, French and Belgian counterparts? In addition, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, Cyprus and Iceland have entered the condition that they reserve the right to refuse extradition in respect of any offence which they consider to be a political offence, an offence connected with a political offence or one inspired by political motives. The Coalition Government must think again before finally ratifying the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy is now straying very far from this Bill. I have allowed him some leeway by allowing passing references to other issues but he has really strayed now. I ask him to revert to the Bill before the House.

This Government have a duty to protect and vindicate the rights and liberty of Irish citizenship. I will not be deflected by the Chair from putting forward the rights and liberties of Irish citizenship and indicating the way in which they must be protected. Indeed, the Government are bound by legislation, just as is everybody else. Therefore, they have a duty to protect and vindicate the rights and liberties of Irish citizens, especially when this means providing a fair and equitable trial, and punishment, in an environment free from political prejudice. Can the Coalition Government say that the Maguire family, Giuseppe Conlon and the Birmingham six were given a fair trial under British justice as it applies to Irishment today?

Acting Chairman

Deputy, you are straying very far from the Bill.

In the eyes of Britain these Irish men and women were terrorists. In the eyes of any independent observer they were innocent. Do the Government expect us to surrender further Irish citizens to this so called justice?

Acting Chairman

Deputy, the Bill provides for the acquisition of Irish citizenship by aliens. Please speak to the Bill.

The Minister has pointed out that aliens acquire citizenship each year. Once the alien acquires citizenship he or she becomes a citizen governed by the Constitution. I know it is embarrassing for the Government when they want to do away with Articles 2 and 3 and at the same time citizens in the North have protections and rights of acquisition of citizenship under that. Nevertheless, if the Acting Chairman would keep his peace——

This is dealing with discrimination against citizens. I wish the Deputy would cope with that.

I come to the question of acquiring citizenship on marriage. The Bill before us today seeks to extend to an alien man who married an Irish woman the same right of acquiring citizenship as would be enjoyed by an alien woman who marries an Irishman. In so far as this new provision removes an anomaly from the existing legislation we welcome this Bill.


I do not know if the Deputy read the Somjee case but it might be worth her while to read it. It has been heard in the High Court and found not to be a discrimination but an anomaly. I will give the Deputy the detail on that if she wants it because she does not seem to have read that either. I am surprised at that.

I read the United Nations document.

Did she not read about the case in the Irish High Court and Supreme Court? Has she read the Constitution? We have no problem in going along with her and bringing equality. We want to bring equality.

The Deputy must be joking.

I am a bit concerned about putting in a three year waiting period because we are bringing women in. That is questionable and I will deal with it in due course. I am surprised that the Minister did not refer to the Somjee case because I felt it was very relevant to this. Of course, it brings the Irish law into the matter. The judgment in the Somjee case was delivered on 20 December 1979. It is in the library if the Deputy wants to follow it up. It is Mohammed Ali Somjee and Margaret Somjee. This case is the one which highlighted the need for an amendment to the legislation. The need for the amendment was highlighted by the High Court action between Mohammed Ali Somjee and Margaret Somjee and the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General in the judgment delivered in 1979. I wish Deputies would refer to Irish constitutional law and decisions in the Irish courts.

Look to Europe.

I am surprised that the Minister did not refer to this case which highlighted the situation. Mohammed Ali Somjee came to the country in March 1977 and resided continuously here from that time on and he married an Irish girl. He gave evidence that he had been omitted from the Irish squash team for an overseas tour because he was not an Irish citizen nor could he become one as quickly as he desired. His wife claimed that she was precluded by the 1956 Act from conferring on her husband the benefits of Irish citizenship by virtue of her marriage to him. This all happened in Ireland, not on the moon or anywhere.

Golf clubs also operate in Ireland.

If it had been a man he would by his marriage be able to confer on his alien spouse the automatic right to Irish citizenship — this is the argument she made — which was not dependent on the grace and favour of the Minister for Justice. To my surprise, the High Court found that ultimately she was not dis-criminated against because she could come in, but it would take a little longer. That is how the decision came out. I will go into all that if the House wishes. It was not a discrimination but it was an anomaly which resulted in her having to wait longer. I felt that it was a kind of discrimination and I agree with what the Minister said. It is an interesting case when you look into the detail of it.

There would not have been a case if it had been an Irish husband.

I realise that and the court realised it also, but it was not found to be a discrimination. That is the basic point. In strictly legal, constitutional terms it was not found to be a discrimination. I found that somewhat surprising but then one was open to become a citizen and still have the means of becoming a citizen, but it was not an equal means. The present Bill removes the distinction between men and women in the 1956 Act. Fianna Fáil welcome this step in that it provides for equal treatment for men and women, clearly, positively and without question of doubt.

The statement made in the Somjee case was that this in effect means that an alien woman who marries an Irish citizen other than a naturalised citizen may automatically acquire Irish citizenship on her marriage, in contrast to the position of an alien man. However, a certificate of naturalisation granted to an alien man upon his marriage to an Irish citizen may be revoked in the circumstances set out in section 19. I will not go into all the detail of it but the Minister indicated that he would within a period of, if I remember rightly, two years, allow Mr. Somjee to become an Irish citizen. The problem was that Mr. Somjee wanted to play in an international squash match much sooner than that. The two year wait was his problem.

Oh dear, my heart bleeds for him.

He is going to have a three year wait now and she is going to have a three year wait as well. If this occurs again they are both going to have the problem that he had here.

At least it is equal and honest.

They are both equally delayed three years. It will not help his case. His case was that the first named plaintiff gave evidence that he had been omitted from the Irish squash team for an overseas tour because he was not an Irish citizen. He said that he wished to remain in Ireland and earn his livelihood here and his evidence in this area was not challenged. He wanted to become an Irish citizen. The wife, who is an Irish citizen and as such is unarguably entitled to the protection of the constitutional guarantees contained in that part of the Constitution devoted to the protection of fundamental rights, is precluded by virtue of the provision of the 1956 Act from conferring on her husband the benefits of Irish citizenship by virtue of her marriage to him. The argument runs that if the case involved a man, he would, by marriage, be capable of conferring on the alien spouse an automatic right to Irish citizenship which was not dependent on the grace and favour of the Minister.

This matter was argued in the High Court. The judgment went on to state that the female was losing out. I should like to refer Deputies to that judgment, which is available in the Liabrary. The Minister was prepared to make the husband of that woman, a Pakistani, a citizen; but there was to be a delay of two years. Of course, because of that he could not participate in the international squash competition. It was because of this, and because they did not consider this to be equal treatment, that they took the matter to the High Court. However, under the provisions of the Bill before us they will have to wait three years now. The High Court judgment continued:

The sections under attack provide for a diversity of arrangements as between male aliens and female aliens: the latter, upon marriage, are entitled automatically, at their option, to Irish citizenship, whereas the former are not. This does not mean that male aliens are precluded from acquiring Irish nationality upon marriage...

It did not mean that those people were precluded from obtaining Irish nationality on marriage. The judgment continued:

... or, to use the terminology employed on behalf of the second-named plaintiff, that Irish women are precluded from conferring the benefits of Irish citizenship upon their alien spouses — but the legislature has unquestionably made different arrangements so far as male aliens are concerned.

While it was not regarded as being uncon-stitutional it was regarded as the Legislature making different arrangements in the two cases. The judgment went on:

It is not, however, sufficient for the plaintiffs to establish that such a diversity of arrangements exists; it must be shown to the satisfaction of the Court that the diversity of arrangements constitutes a form of discrimination which is invidious and, therefore, prohibited by the Constitution.

It was on those grounds that the case failed, but it resulted in action being taken afterwards to provide equal arrangements within the legislation, which is what we are dealing with today.

Was that 1979?

December 1979.

The wheels moves slowly.

Yes, but they move more slowly if one does not know about the case that went before the court. The judgment went on:

... in my view, the distinction is more properly regarded as conferring a form of privilege on female aliens rather than as being invidiously discriminatory against male aliens.

The last sentence of the judgment was to the effect that the plaintiff's claim was dismissed.

The delay in that case was the problem and not the question of the alien husband not being able to become an Irish citizen. The alien wife in similar circumstances would not have had any delay other than that involved in going through certain formalities. The Minister is not just saying that they were different arrangements and that we should give male aliens the same treatment as we have been giving to female aliens up to now. The first thing that comes to one's mind is that we should put this matter right by giving female aliens the same rights as we have given hitherto to male aliens, but that is not what the Minister is doing. The Minister has included a new clause which provides that the entitlement to automatic citizenship to be enjoyed by a spouse shall not take effect earlier than three years after the date of the marriage provided that the marriage is still subsisting at the time of declaration.

That safeguard, presumably, has been included to provide against marriages of convenience. I hope the Minister will elaborate more on that when replying. However, the three year waiting period is a new provision. It did not apply before the women were given the same rights and equal treatment as men. This waiting period could create further difficulties and anomalies. For example, if an Irish-man marries an Italian woman in Italy and they reside in Ireland but after two and a half years, and with two children, he dies, then she does not have any rights of citizenship by the marriage. She then has to start applying to the Minister. I will be discussing that on Committee State. If that man deserts his wife and gets a divorce in Italy she does not have any rights of citizenship here by the marriage. If they live abroad and he dies she has no rights of citizenship.

In my view the Minister will have to include on Committee Stage a provision entitling the woman to lodge a declaration under section 8, that notwithstanding the death of the spouse of the marriage, provided the Minister is satisfied that it is a bona fide case the applicant would be accommodated. I have outlined disadvantages built into the mechanism chosen by the Minister in this case. On Committee Stage I will go into the matter in more detail.

I do not know why the new period should be three years. The matter is very confusing. Half of the time this is men's lib and the other half it is women's lib, but I do not think it is either because we are trying to get equal arrangements. I would be interested to hear from the Minister why, when the provision that applied to husbands who brought a wife into the country had an automatic entitlement to citizenship was being given to women to bring in husbands, it was decided to have a three-year waiting period. Why is the waiting period not one year? Is there evidence from what happened in the past with men bringing wives in that made this necessary?

The Minister made reference to international arrangements, but there must be some evidence in the Department of what happened under our own arrangements to men bringing their wives in. Is it because problems arose that the Minister has decided to introduce the three year waiting period, or is she anxious to get in line with general international ways rather than doing what would be appropriate for Ireland? It is clear that the three year period is being added when wives are being allowed to bring their husbands into citizenship in a similar manner to that which operated when men were allowed. The Somjee case is an interesting example. In that case the person concerned urgently needed to be regarded as an Irish citizen. He was resident, settled and married here for a couple of years, but he needed to be accepted as a citizen fairly quickly. When that was not possible he felt aggrieved and took a case to the High Court. If we thought hard enough I am sure we would come up with other cases.

The three year waiting period will leave them in a disadvantaged position compared with the existing position. The Minister has not given us much back-ground information on the experience in this area. She tells us that foreign husbands of Irish citizens do not have such a right and that this legislation will confer that right on them. That is the part that seems like men's rather than women's lib. However, we are all agreed that the arrangement should be made. We are merely questioning the reason for the three year period stipulation. The Minister tells us also that various options were considered but that the Government decided that the Bill should provide for the right to citizenship after three years of marriage in the case both of foreign wives and foreign husbands. She went on to say that the Government had regard to the trend in changes in international legislation on this topic as well as to the needs of families of mixed nationality. My argument with this Government on many issues is that changes are made for some international or supra-national reason rather than in the first instance to deal with the problems people are experiencing.

The Somjee case in 1979 highlighted the need for a change in this area but the Government are not accommodating the requirements that that case indicated. If Somjee were in a similar situation tomorrow he would not be helped by this new provision. He would have become a citizen a year earlier under the previous provisions so he would not be very enamoured of the change proposed here. There is no indication in the Minister's speech as to where the three year notion emanated from. We are not told what the Government's reasoning was. I have suggested that it may have been to prevent marriages of convenience but we have not been told that.

The Minister told us also that section 8 (1) stipulates that a declaration may not be lodged earlier than three years from the date of a marriage and that the marriage must be subsisting at the date of the lodgment of the declaration. She explained that on the question of marriage subsisting, it is intended to provide by statutory instrument that an affidavit will be required by the Irish spouse to the effect that the marriage has subsisted for at least three years. The Minister has not said to us that there were problems arising from the previous provisions which allowed a man bring in a foreign wife. She has not said that there were problems in the operation of the legislation in such cases in relation to the extension period and that consequently the Government consider that there should be a three year waiting period but she has not said that. I trust she will clarify the position when replying because it seems as if she would not trust women who would be bringing in foreign husbands or at least that she could not trust the judgment of such women.

The requirements of the Somjee case do not indicate a three year waiting period. The Minister was prepared already to allow Somjee to become a full citizen after two years. Incidentally, the Minister this morning did not refer to that High Court case.

When we are considering legislation we should have regard to how it operates, to how it is found to operate in the courts and so on. Then if there are problems the Government of the day should come to the House telling us that and seeking changes in the area concerned. The Minister has available to her in the Department information on experience in this area, so one would have expected her to outline the kinds of problems that were being experienced. Instead, all we have is the statement that the Government decided that we should provide for the right to citizenship both of foreign wives and husbands after three years of marriage. The new arrangements will mean a loss to young men who wish to bring in foreign wives vis-á-vis the previous arrangement. We shall be considering this legislation more closely on Committee Stage. I am only highlighting the three year period proposal to give the Minister an opportunity of considering the matter in advance of the next Stage. That is the purpose of a Second Stage debate.

Why is the change being introduced now only, when women are being granted the same right as men enjoy already? We must be told the reason for this so that the House can judge whether it is necessary to provide for a three year waiting period. It may be that the information available to the Minister would indicate the necessity for a six month or a 12 month waiting period but she has not been helpful to us in that respect. We agree completely regarding the need for equal treatment and so on but it is important to be right technically when dealing with these matters. We have the judgments of the courts to help us in the matter of whether constitutional rights are being infringed but we must be clear on what we are doing and why.

The Minister is also altering the conditions for the issue of certificates of naturalisation. Under section 4 it is proposed that a person applying for naturalisation will no longer have to give one year's notice of intention to make that application. I trust the Minister will set out the reasons for this change. Would it have been appropriate to reduce the period of waiting from one year to, say, two months? What is the experience of the Department in that area? Is it desirable to have some short waiting period? I ask the Minister to clarify this matter.

I note at the same time that she is retaining absolute discretion in granting Irish citizenship by means of a certificate of naturalisation. Would she say something more about that? Section 4 of the Bill proposes to re-enact section 15 of the 1956 Act with the omission of the requirement that a person give one year's notice of intention to apply for naturalisation. The Minister says that this provision has been found not to serve any useful purpose and, on the contrary, to have proved to be a cause of delay in certain cases where there is no other need for delay. Would she elaborate on the experience in this area and whether it is necessary to have any period of delay at all? In this section, at least, the Minister gave some indication of the reasons behind the step being taken.

However, in introducing a three year waiting period in the other section she gave no reasons at all. Why was she so silent about that? That makes me suspicious. Perhaps around the Cabinet table some of her colleagues struck a warning note about marriages of convenience. If that is the case, someone should have asked: "Why were we not careful about this in the past in relation to men?" Perhaps the Minister was not very keen to put in that waiting period. We want to know the reasoning behind this. Are we really getting down to a discriminatory attitude towards Irish women — not aliens who might be making application — who might bring in a husband? Is there such a discriminatory attitude towards women that the Minister has to go along with, but is trying to conceal? I want to hear a lot more about that section. If she has good, sound reasons, she should give them.

I know that there must be some control on marriages of convenience. Was there a problem previously and is it anticipated that the problem will become greater in the future? I tried to get some information in this regard by way of a parliamentary question but, in some instances, the information was not freely available. It would have taken a great deal of time to put together. I asked the Minister for Justice yesterday the number of applications for citizenship received in each of the past five years and the number granted and if he would also give in respect of the same five years the number of applications and those granted for each of the following categories: acquisition of citizenship on marriage; certificates of naturalisation under section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act; certificates of naturalisation under section 16.

The answer given was that the number of persons who were granted certificates of naturalisation or who accepted post-nuptial Irish citizenship in each of the past five years was as follows: in 1981, of 599 applications, 449 were granted; in 1982, of 522 applications, 490 were granted; in 1983, of 449 applications, 411 were granted; in 1984, of 595 applications, 520 were granted. There must be a mistake with regard to 1985 because it says that of 759 applications, 766 were granted. It could happen to a bishop, never mind anybody else. That gives an indication that applications have been increasing in recent years. Post-nuptial declarations are included although, strictly speaking, no application as such was involved.

The number of women who acquired Irish citizenship by way of post-nuptial declaration under section 8 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1956 for the same years was as follows: in 1981, 312; in 1982, 271; in 1983, 221; in 1984, 367; in 1985, 513. The sizeable increase in 1985 is interesting. We should send out loud and clear from this House an announcement to those women who are living here, married to Irish citizens and who might wish to become Irish citizens, that it would be advisable for them to apply straight away, if they have that intention. Once this Bill becomes law, there will be a three year waiting period. I am not sure if the Minister made any specific comment on that point.

There is a six months' period after the passing of the Bill.

There would be a six months' period after the Bill becomes law within which women who wished to could apply for Irish citizenship, who did not want to wait for three years. They might find themselves in another year called onto an Irish international team, for instance, in the case of badminton or squash.

They will not be called.

They could be called on to any of the other international teams. If so, they would be well advised to take note of what is happening here today. They should realise that they are on about eight months' notice at this stage as it will take another month or two for the Bill to be passed and signed by the President. These women will lose something under the Act — I am afraid to look at Deputy Barnes as she does not like me to mention matters of that kind — but I have to deal with the facts. Women who are married to Irishmen and living here will lose the opportunity they had previously of just declaring and automatically becoming Irish citizens. I presume that the members of the press will highlight the situation. It is interesting to note that 221 people applied in 1983 to become Irish citizens; in 1984 367 applied, and in 1985 513 applied. They may have had an indication that this Bill would be introduced and made their applications accordingly. The indications are that the figures increased considerably in recent times.

The reply to the question also said that statistics are not maintained in such a way as to enable a distinction to be drawn between certificates granted under sections 15 and 16 but that the differences between the figures in the last column of the two tables represented the cases granted certificates of naturalisation under these provisions taken together. The reply want on to say that to provide information based on the distinctions in question would require an examination of all the papers concerned and would not be warranted. The reply further stated that the bulk of cases granted certificates under section 16 consists of husbands of Irish citizens: the figure was 81 in 1985. Perhaps this will change in the future and many more will apply for naturalisation but this is a matter for conjecture. While it is not readily available perhaps the Minister has information in regard to the position.

Section 5 deals with granting asylum and citizenship to a person married to an Irish citizen and removes the unequal treatment which operated against women heretofore. The Bill also includes a section providing for the naturalisation of a refugee or a stateless person. I warmly welcome this section and the Minister was very forthcoming and gave us plenty of information on the reasons for it. In relation to refugees and stateless persons, the Minister will be able to dispense with the statutory conditions for naturalisation. This is a very welcome proposal and I note that it is intended to apply a three year residence requirement to refugees and stateless persons instead of the five years requirement for other categories. I presume that their status and position can be clearly determined, which does away with the five year requirement. The Minister is also taking steps to ensure that the fees in these cases will be nominal and that formalities attached to naturalisation will be minimal. This is in accord with the Geneva Convention of 1951. Article 34 refers to the need to reduce, as far as possible, the charges and costs of naturalisation proceedings in such cases.

There has been considerable disquiet in recent times in respect of a number of cases of people who sought refuge in Ireland, were refused entry and dispatched with considerable haste. I asked a question in this regard in order to help my contribution to the Bill. I asked the Minister for Justice if he would state in respect of each of the last five years the number of aliens who had sought (a) permanent and (b) temporary asylum in Ireland, the number granted in each case and if he would also stated in respect of the same five years the number of persons who were granted the status of temporary visitor in transit, because this status was applied to the guru who landed in Shannon recently and who caused so much consternation there and in the House. The reply did not give the information in regard to temporary visitors in transit. But the rest of the answer said that on Friday, 7 March, immigration control at Shannon Airport was informed by the airport authorities that a private plane was landing at the airport and that it contained a sick person accompanied by a nurse. The plane landed and those occupants who were subject to immigration control were admitted in accordance with the provisions of the Aliens (Amendment) Order, 1975, on the understanding that their stay would be of short duration.

The Minister for Justice was asked "if he would explain the circumstances which led to his decision to permit the guru of the rich, Baghwan Shree Rajmeesh, and his party to enter Ireland and remain here, the period for which residence had been granted and, since the person concerned is a deportee from the United States, if he would make a statement on the matter". In his reply the Minister said that he was satisfied that the immigration officer concerned acted properly and in accordance with the law on this occasion and that the persons in question left the State on 18 March. As the Chair would say, the urgency had departed from the matter at that stage. That is the most recent case in which public views were expressed in relation to such a matter. I presume that would come under the temporary visitor in transit status.

I also inquired about those who sought permanent or temporary asylum in Ireland and the numbers involved, so that we could discuss them today in relation to this section of the Bill. Unfortunately, the reply to this question, given on Thursday, 20 March 1986, was that "in the time available it had not been possible to compile the information requested, some of which had to be obtained from outside the Department". The Minister stated that he would arrange to send the information, to the extent to which it is available, to me as soon as it is compiled. I appreciate that there could be difficulty in compiling the information. However, I would have appreciated some indication of the most recent figures. Perhaps when the Minister is replying she may have some of those figures available in relation to recent years. Information must be collated by somebody on these issues. It suggests that many of them are being put on files and that nobody is putting them together. There is a need for a new approach in administration. I am sure the former Minister for Finance will introduce computerisation and whatever else is required to make sure that these things are in order, if he can get the finances required from the present Minister for Finance. I have not got the information available at present for this Second Stage of the Bill, which is very relevant. Nevertheless, I trust that it will be available shortly.

There has been considerable disquiet in recent times in respect of the number of cases in which people who sought refuge in Ireland, were refused entry and were despatched with considerable haste. The "guru of the rich" was a different case. People had a different view about him and about the fact that he was deported. There were questions about why he was deported. Were there connections there which would leave us in the position that we would not want to see him here either? However, it is the whole process. I am thinking here more of cases like the two Ethiopian citizens and the Afghan students who were here some time ago. There are various other cases where people arrive at say, Shannon Airport, duck off a plane and hide in the airport. It is very hard for us to find out what exactly has happened to them. When we put down questions, like the one I have mentioned, the Minister just says that he is satisfied that the situation was satisfactorily resolved. There is quite an amount of concern about these cases. There was considerable concern in the case of the Afghan students.

Deputy Frank Prendergast put down a question on the case of the two Ethiopian citizens which was answered again yesterday. He asked the Minister for Justice the reason for the refusal to give political asylum to two Ethiopian citizens who had applied for it in Shannon Airport in March. He asked the Minister if he was aware of the wide-spread concern at our apparent reluctance to afford such sanctuary which is a normal feature of all democratic societies. He also asked him to outline the requirements that are necessary before such asylum can be given. Of course, the Minister did not agree with Deputy Prendergast that there was widespread concern. Deputy Prendergast, as a Member of the House, was very concerned and people had expressed concern to him. The Minister's reply was:

The passengers' request was fully examined in the context of the 1951 United Nations Convention in Geneva on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees. The Department of Foreign Affairs was consulted and the case was also discussed with the London office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who sent a representative to interview the passengers. The decision not to allow the passengers remain in the State was taken in the light of information supplied by the passengers themselves and views offered by the bodies mentioned. The requirements in relation to entry by aliens into the State are contained in the Aliens Act, 1935, and regulations made thereunder. Subject to the requirements of these instruments and the convention and protocol which I mentioned, applications for political asylum are considered on individual merits.

That is the key phrase.

The Minister said that he was not aware that there was widespread concern in relation to the cases in question, which were dealt with in accordance with law and accepted procedures, and only after the most painstaking inquiries. From time to time we come across cases where people apply for asylum here. We would like to see a situation where we would decide on these issues by the standards of the citizens of Ireland as set out in our Constitution and under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956. We want to see the interest, the beliefs and the aspirations of those Irish citizens represented in any decisions that are made. From practical experience it is extremely difficult to get information about people who apply for political asylum. All we are told is that the matter is being considered and that a decision has been taken. Very often the first notice we get of these cases is that the media ferret out the information and we learn of it in the papers. How else are we to know? We, as Members of the House, do not know otherwise. When an application is made, should such application be put before the House? Should they be made available in the Library so that Members of the House are aware of them?

I am a little suspicious that there is something of the bum's rush being given to people, especially students, when they land at Shannon. I am also a little suspicious that there are influences in operation outside the influence and intentions of the Irish people and that there may be very close collaboration with the British authorities in this area. That is why I would like to insist that whatever standards are applied are the ones that come from our own nationality and independent choice and that we know what is going on. We find it very difficult to find this out in the present circumstances. Under this Bill — and we fully support him — the Minister can make new arrangements such as those in which the statutory conditions for naturalisation may be altered, five years residence for refugees and stateless persons may be reduced to three years and the fees can be simplified. But they cannot even get to first base. When they come off the plane at Shannon before they know it they are being interviewed and being sent back.

We had an interesting case very recently. I put down a Private Notice Question as there was a good deal of concern about Baghwan Shree Rajmeesh, Guru of the Rich. I wanted to hear about this matter before it was over. The Chair told me that it was not an urgent matter as the person was already in the country for about a week at the time. I pointed out to the Chair that we did not know that. The first we had heard of it was the day I raised the matter in the House. We heard of it through the media. This raises the whole question of people being gone before you can find out anything about them. We would be concerned that people are going back to States where their liberty, freedom and rights may not be properly respected. The Irish people would want such people to be given every opportunity to have a full hearing.

Who makes the decision at the end of the day and who advises the Minister? We know ultimately the Minister makes the decision, but he can only go on the advice he receives. In one of his replies the Minister has pointed out that he was satisfied the matter was fully investigated. In that case it may well be that he is quite correct. In some of the other cases, the length of time was not as long, and people were gone after a couple of days. This is the kind of thing I hoped to learn from my question. How much of this is happening? How many cases are there? We hear only of the cases that come to the attention of the national media. We hear from Deputies who happen to be closer to the scene and live near the airport that they heard of another case which we had not heard of.

The Minister should consider having a mechanism whereby these applications are noted on the table of the House, in the Library. More important, the Minister should provide a section in this Bill which would require him to set out the procedures to be followed in dealing with refugees, stateless persons or others who seek asylum. On Committee Stage, the Minister of State should include an amendment which will require the Minister to set out the procedures which are to be followed in dealing with these cases, and not just say we will honour a Convention. Let us have it a bit clearer. To ensure that such persons receive natural justice, are fully heard and understood, the Minister should set up a committee of three persons to consider these cases and advise him. That would mean an internal change. What happens at present is that a person looks into the matter and advises the Minister that in his experience this is the action that should be taken.

If we want to convey a broader view we should have a review of this situation. In these circumstances the Minister may not be able to put all this on the table and I would not mind that. I would like to see a broadening of the review process whereby there would be a committee of three persons to whom such cases would be referred for consideration. That committee could advise the Minister. The Minister could appoint these persons, and I am not concerned in any way about that. The committee would take a broad representative view and set down separately the procedures to be followed. It may well be that we will see more of this in the future.

I am limited by not having the facts, as they are not available. They will arrive in a few days but, unfortunately, I am not able to refer to them in the context of this debate. These are two steps which should be taken in this area. A bona fide but penniless refugee must get a fair hearing and a reasonable opportunity to prove his or her case. The present system is unsatisfactory in that respect. That is why I suggest to the Minister to consider two steps. The first is to make provision that the procedures to be followed will be set out clearly and be available to Members of the House so that they can see that these procedures are being followed. The second is to have a committee which would be represented of the views of the community so that these people would be in a position to advise the Minister on the decisions that should be taken.

The Minister may say he is not concerned, and that it works fine. The amount of unease in the House about some of these decisions is very interesting. Even if the decisions are good ones and soundly based, as they may well be, Deputies are not convinced. There is no question about that. We must ensure that not only is the right thing done, but it is seen and accepted as being done. In this respect we could assist and facilitate this development by taking the measures I have suggested.

It is extraordinary how much one finds when reading between the lines of a Bill. The value of a Second Stage debate is that it concentrates the mind on the provisions of the Bill and ensures that fresh minds are applied to the subject. At the end of the day the Bill is reviewed in relation to current practices and beliefs. This is the time to indicate ideas and concerns which are intended to be helpful in improving the measure and making it less likely to run into difficulty subsequently. I have approached the legislation in that spirit. We will be happy to support this Bill on Second Stage and to assist its passage through the House. On Committee Stage we will wait to see what amendments the Minister proposes and we shall be interested to hear the views expressed in reply to the points raised on Second Stage. I will be listening to those remarks and I will consider them constructively. Perhaps between us we can ensure that the Bill will achieve the desired result. If I feel that the Minister's amendments on Committee Stage are not adequate, we will put down our own amendments to assist in the finalisation of this legislation.

I have outlined the points which I feel must be considered in relation to this Bill. We have pleasure in supporting it.

At the risk of being seen in some kind of role reversal, I do not think Deputy Woods understands me. That is my problem. Deputy Woods suggested that I would be upholding anything to do with women that would be seen as any kind of privilege, regardless of the fundamental right to it. I reject that. Women do not want privileges or perks bestowed on them through their relationships with men. They are concerned to have them in their own right as citizens of this State without the necessity of marrying to acquire such rights. Anything which interferes with that and denies it to them they see in simple terms as discrimination. They do not call it an anomaly, a quirk of the Constitution or a court interpretation of a constitutional case. Being practical people, they base their views on logic, experience and documentation.

Deputy Woods referred to a wellknown case involving a male who had not had conferred on him the same privileges by an Irish wife as an Irish husband could have conferred on a foreign wife. That court case was as far back as 1979. I wish to refer back further to the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women adopted by the General Assembly Resolution of 7 November 1967, which is basic to this Bill. Like Deputy Woods, I welcome some of the other areas which have been addressed in the Bill, such as those sections covering refugees and stateless persons. The longstanding need for this Bill is that in the eyes of the world we were not able to ratify European and United Nations conventions and declarations because we had not removed the necessary discriminations. Article 5 of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in 1967 states quite clearly that women shall have the same rights as men to acquire, change or retain their nationality. Section 2 of Article 6 states that all appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure the principle of equality of status of the husband and wife. With all due respect to Deputy Woods, we are trying to address ourselves not to the difficulties of gurus——

That is a different section of the Bill.

It is, but we should be addressing ourselves more fundamentally to half the population of this country who did not have the same rights of citizenship in this country as the men had. Deputy Woods said several times that we should not really have to go further than Ireland, our bright and precious land, that we should be able to uphold our Constitution, that the citizens of our State should be secure in the kind of legislation we introduce internally. I wish I could have such trust and confidence in that legislation, as do the women of Ireland. Our experience has been that the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women have been levers and pressures that we needed because the internal legislation did not even acknowledge, much less remove, discriminations, but only saw them as anomalies.

Even though we were members of the EC, we had an anomaly here in regard to women's pay which had to be redressed. We were not allowed to earn salaries or wages equal with men for equal work. That was remedied discrimination against also remedied discrimination against women in regard to a maternity, and women are now given maternity leave. There is still a delay in regard to equality in social security. In that respect we have had different Administrations but we are still two months late in implementing legislation on the appropriate EC directive.

In these circumstances, I ask Deputy Woods how can women in Ireland have confidence or trust in promises to remove all forms of discrimination against women? I am sorry I had to heckle Deputy Woods this morning — it is not my style — when he was speaking about discrimination in other areas, in regard to voting, for instance. I know the Deputy is very concerned about the rights of women, but why have we been waiting for more than three years for the removal of simple discrimination. We still have the enormity of discrimination against women in regard to the rights enjoyed by men vis-à-vis their spouses.

Deputy Woods spoke about discriminatory attitudes in this Bill, though the huge problem for women is to try to fight their way through a maze of legal discriminations against them; and whenever there is an effort made to bring about a sense of balance, of equality as between men and women, it is always prevented. People sometimes ask how we can allow, particularly as members of the EC, such positive discrimination against women, though there is obvious awareness of this discrimination, which is innate, inbuilt.

Deputy Woods spoke of the 1979 High Court action brought by a couple because the husband simply was not allowed to compete in an internationsl squash match. He was married to an Irish woman. The discrimination was against the wife and because of that he, too, was victimised. Irish women living in Ireland are not allowed to have membership of golf, tennis or yachting clubs. They are discriminated against in some public houses.

I am in total agreement with Deputy Woods about discrimination against aliens. I suppose we have here the same exclusive discrimination against women in certain instances as we would have against Martians if they landed here. In the latter case we would be castigated as a discriminatory society. Our position in this regard is unacceptable. Deputy Woods spoke about our alliance with international conventions. Recently, we signed acceptance of the convention on terrorism. We must try to adhere to the international policies of France, Germany and those wonderfully liberal, socially just, Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. I was tempted to ask the House to look at the type of social legislation obtaining in those countries with regard to the removal of discrimination against women.

Both the Minister and Deputy Woods referred to loyalty to the State. Until all discriminations are removed it is difficult for Irish women to consider themselves as legal citizens. That reminds me of something that was said by Dr. Margaret McCurtain at a seminar in 1985 at the conclusion of the Decade for Women. She said that women found it very difficult to see nationhood, statehood and the history of the State in terms of territory only and in terms of boundaries because women only began to feel actively involved in the history of the nation in the late sixties. That is a statement many women would identify with, although men do not seem to appreciate it in the same way. Most of the women involved in the setting up of this State were written out of history and it is only now through the efforts of women that they are being written back in. Women did not begin to have equal status in the community here until the mid-sixties and in the seventies when we had equal treatment legislation for women. In 1986, there is still a lot outstanding. This Bill has to do with citizenship and it is about removing a discrimination against women because of the way in which it has affected men. It should not be seen only from the perspective of how it affects men.

The point raised by Deputy Woods in relation to the time limit being introduced is a valid point and we must be quite sure that the reasons for the delay, the security of the State and so on are valid reasons so that everybody concerned will be sure that thought and consideration have gone into this. I would hate to think that because we are allowing women the right to bestow citizenship on an Irish husband, there is a hint that women are less trustworthy than men or more easily manipulated and that they could not be directly granted the right that has been enjoyed by men for decades. Up to now marriage legally gave the husband privileges to bestow on the wife who, in turn, lost many of the rights which she would have retained had she remained single.

I would find it embarrassing to say abroad that it was only in 1981 that the tort of criminal conversation was repealed. A basic fundamental part of that tort was that a woman was a chattel and was so described legally. She belonged as property to her husband and if she exercised any choice in leaving that husband and going with another man, that man was sued for her lack of services to the husband. In court an assessment was made of her worth having regard to her youth, the number of years useful life she had left that was lost to the husband, her attractiveness and so on, and on that assessment a financial award was made to the husband for the loss of his chattel. Is it any wonder that I and other women cannot trust the Legislature alone or the Constitution to protect our rights? The Constitution demands that all citizens be treated equally. So how is it that six years later I can come into this House and list some of the most outstanding and insulting discriminations which were only removed in the last five years and say that there are still discriminations against women with regard to membership of pubs, access to clubs and so on, discriminations we would not use against aliens.

The Bill deals with citizenship.

We gave much thought to ensuring that the rights of citizenship and equality of citizenship should be part of the Bill. That is commendable. We are also trying to improve the conditions under which refugees and stateless persons can obtain naturalisation here. The point I was making was that if we attempted to discriminate against stateless persons or refugees in this country, without improving our existing conditions, there would be an outcry. Yet such discriminations exist against half the population who are full, Irish citizens. Therefore it should be seen to be in order that I would make those remarks within the context of this Bill.

I shall not take up the time of the House. Part of our problem here is getting legislation through. There is no sense in my standing up here taking up the time of the House and complaining about legislation not getting through if I am delaying the process.

The Deputy should never let people say that to her. She should say what she wants to say. The delay occurs in between, when the Government do not bring the legislation back into the House.

I am filled with divine patience, if I may say so, about the amount of legislation we still have to introduce, a tremendous amount of social legislation affecting women. Yet, within the term of office of this Government, we are fast running out of time. Having made basic points of principle I shall reserve the remainder of my remarks for Committee Stage.

I welcome the Bill; it is long overdue. I do not want its provisions to be evaded, ignored or diluted in any way by their not being seen to be basically about conferring the same equality of Irish nationality and citizenship on women as on men. As the Minister of State has said, I rejoice in the fact that one of the reservations that prevented us from ratifying the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has now been removed. Unfortunately, as an Irish citizen, I must acknowledge that there are still some reservations obtaining with regard to other resolutions and in regard to which we have not passed the necessary legislation. I do not think we can stand up in this House as legislators, or citizens of an Irish Republic, claiming to be proud of it as long as we have those reservations entered which preclude us from ratifying all declarations and conventions on a European and international scale. I would feel much prouder if, as Irish citizens, we had managed to do so without the external influences referred to here this morning. At one stage I think it was Virginia Woolf who said that she was not a citizen of a country but of the world. That is what we have to strive for. We should not see ourselves merely in narrow terms of Irish citizens but rather we should feel proud that our Irish citizenship can be upheld under any legislation in any part of the world.

Like Deputy Barnes, I intend to be brief. Obviously this is a Bill which will be welcomed by all sides of the House. It is really an updating of law drafted 30 years ago when official thinking on matters of sexual equality was very different from what it is today. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1956 very obviously reflected, not in any offensive way, the general thinking of that time.

The Bill before us today is not particularly important or earthshaking in its immediate impact. It will affect relatively few people. In practical terms the disabilities this Bill seeks to remedy are felt not by any great number of people. Probably a small proportion only of the 20,000 or so aliens or non-nationals living in this country will be affected in practical terms by its provisions. This is because the vast majority of non-nationals who live here are from other EC countries. Obviously they do not suffer, in employment terms, because of the existing arrangements of the Community. Probably we are talking about a few hundred cases each year. From the figures quoted by the Minister in her opening remarks, there does appear to be a disparity in the sexual ratio between men and women in this category.

While at first sight those who mainly suffer the discrimination which the Bill seeks to rectify would appear to be male spouses, those who really suffer under present legislation are the families of the people concerned. The present position has made it impossible for many — and we will never know how many — Irish women married abroad to non-Irish husbands who want to come back, to settle and bring up their families here. The present law has made it impossible for them to do so because its provisions make it difficult for a husband to obtain citizenship and, consequently, to get employment. He will not get a permit unless he can prove that the job he seeks cannot be filled, not just by some person in this country, but by anybody from any of the remaining 11 EC countries. That is the kernel of the Bill. It is a straightforward, simple Bill in that sense and that is the anomaly it sets out to remove. I do not think there can be any great objection to that.

However, the Bill is important for a number of other reasons, one being its symbolic value. The Bill is a further affirmation by this Government, in particular by the Minister of State with responsibility for women's affairs, Deputy Fennell, that we want to eradicate from our laws and Constitution all traces of discrimination, or even aspirations which may very well reflect attitudes of that sort. For example, the view of the status of women, as enshrined in our Constitution, is not one to which a majority of Deputies in this House would subscribe today. Certainly it is not one to which a majority of younger people would subscribe. Yet it is enshrined in our Constitution, symbolising the official attitude of the Constitution, and of the people, to the role and status of women in society. Rightly our Constitution is difficult to amend. We do not undertake amendments without a great deal of consideration, without feeling that the matter in question is sufficiently important to warrant a referendum and legislation. I doubt that that will be changed at present. This Bill, in a very specific way, affairs the commitment of the Government to reflecting in our legislation the basic Republican principle of equality.

The reason for the introduction of the Bill is that the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 was drafted having regard to international conditions and thinking in the fifties. Conditions have changed. The role of women is one of the great examples of the dramatic change that has occurred over the last 30 years. As the years have gone by, more and more women have entered employment outside the home. At the same time, because of the ease of international travel, more and more women have travelled to study or work outside this country. Inevitably more and more Irish women, outside this country, have married citizens of the country in which they reside. The consequence of that is that the movement has not stopped there. Many couples have wanted to come back to the home of one or other of the spouses. In the past it was assumed — and implicit in existing legislation there was the assumption — that (a) the husband would be the breadwinner and (b) that the couple would move back to live in the country of the husband. From my experience in talking to people who have come to me with this problem, the present legislation has placed great strains on the marriages of those couples who have come back here, found themselves in the situation in which the husband, because of the present law, was unable to get work, even though he was a qualified person wanting to work, with something to offer. He found himself confined to the home while the full burden of breadwinning was placed on the women who might well have preferred to share the time in the home at any rate. Otherwise it meant that the husband was forced to take up work for which he was often greatly over-qualified. That is the sort of trouble we have had. It has not affected a great number of people but it has caused great strain and sometimes led to breakdown of the marriage.

As other speakers have noted, we are not alone in moving towards updating our laws in this matter. There has been no uniformity in the moves throughout the EC. Different countries have adopted different approaches to this problem, but generally the movement in the other countries has been more or less in line with what is being proposed by the Minister here. I think the approach taken is the right one. Deputy Woods has been very helpful and constructive in pointing out some of the difficulties which may well arise from this legislation. On Committee Stage it should be possible to take on board a number of the points he made and to sort out some of the problems which may arise. Like Deputy Woods, I look forward to the Minister's reply in which some of the points can be sorted out.

An aspect of the Bill that I would like to touch upon is the arrangement to allow an easement in the conditions to be fulfilled by refugees and stateless persons. That provision in the Bill is excellent. Our history has shown that in the past we have not been afraid or slow to accept groups of refugees from countries where serious problems arose. People were accepted in this country from Hungary in the fifties following the brutal invasion of that country. In more recent times we have accepted people fleeing from tyranny in Chile and Vietnam. Recently a small group of Baha'is from Iran have been accepted here.

I have a quarrel, or at least a degree of unhappiness, with the practice carried out by the Department of Justice in dealing with individual cases of people who may have come from situations of tyranny or where their lives were in danger in countries with which we still have diplomatic relations and where our system and procedure appear to be over rigid and we seem unwilling to take a humanitarian risk where the letter of the Act may well allow this.

I have one example in mind of a constituent of Deputy Woods and mine, a young man from Libya who finds that, because of the circumstances pertaining in that country, he and his family are very much persona non grata with the good colonel in that country. His family have had their assets appropriated, attacks have been made on members of his family and he has been living in this country. Clearly he is a refugee from a particularly unsavoury regime where his own life and physical person would be in danger if he went back. Under present arrangements it seems that we cannot accept with any great ease or speed the case of such a person. I do not blame the officials for this. I believe the decision would have to be political. I will bring the details of the case to the Minister's attention as I did to that of his officials earlier. I hope it will be taken up and a proper decision reached.

I have one further point about aliens which is relevant to this Bill. We have had a degree of controversy recently about three cases to which I should like to refer. The first is a celebrated case. Deputy Woods — I cannot agree with him — made statements about the colourful guru who was residing here. He may still be here for all I know. I felt that the outcry there was unnecessary and extreme. He did not seem to be breaking any law or to be here for any illegal purpose and he seemed to be in a position to sustain himself. Obviously, he was not staying here permanently.

The more important cases are those referred to in The Irish Times of Tuesday last. On the face of it a German student, an alien residing here, appeared to be very severely and unfairly treated by the aliens section of the Department of Justice. Having made further inquiries, I believe that the aliens section had and have a much stronger case than ever became public and that they behaved properly throughout. However, I charge the Department of Justice with failure to communicate properly the facts of this case so that the appearance and the impression which went abroad were of unfair treatment by the Department of Justice.

The final case is that of the Ethiopians who were not given political sanctuary here some weeks ago. Again I blame the Department of Justice for not making the full facts available. It is quite clear from my inquiries that a high ranking UN official from the refugee section was called in to evaluate the facts in this case. While the advice of that official was not made public, it appears that the Department, having sought such advice, would not go against it. Perhaps in the end the right decision was taken. But the Department of Justice have a major problem in cases like this where the full disclosure of facts and an attempt to meet the case head on would lead to the public having a much more balanced view of what happened. Perhaps this would do a great deal to destroy the view that the Department of Justice officials and Ministers behave in an arbitrary fashion and are not answerable. I am sure that in most cases the reasons upon which they take their decisions are rational and within the confines of the law and often based upon humanitarian aspects. However, I wish they would explain themselves a great deal better.

This Bill is not particularly earth-shattering or wide in its impact. It is important in a symbolic way and, for those who will benefit from its enactment, I welcome it.

I would like to express my gratitude to those Deputies who contributed to this debate, Deputy Woods, Deputy Barnes and Deputy Manning. Before I go into the detail of the points raised let me take up one of the main points made by Deputy Woods regarding the awareness that needs to be created at present, and the change in the law. In this regard I agree with Deputy Woods that the Somjee case in 1979 began to create an awareness of the discrimination, anomaly, or whatever we want to call it, that was built into the 1956 Act. From then on I found that this was coming to my attention and to the attention of women's organisations mainly.

The first case where hardship was being experienced came to my notice in, I think, October 1981, a few months after I was first elected to the Dáil. I remember at that time putting down a question seeking information about this strange anomaly. I can say safely that, from that time on, I have been committed to having this change brought about. While the Somjee case created an awareness that grew, many Irish women living abroad were married to foreign men who were not aware that it is possible for them to get naturalisation for their spouses even under the existing law. I trust that a number of relatives of these women living abroad who will see the publicity about this legislation will be in a position to inform them that there is greater scope now for them to have an application made.

I should like to thank Deputy Woods for welcoming the legislation. It is always a good thing to get agreement on legislation like this. I should like to assure the Deputy that we will be able to discuss points of difference — I suspect they are reasonably small ones — when we come to Committee Stage. Deputy Woods raised a question in regard to Northern Ireland. I should like to point out to him that the provisions of this legislation will be effective for all Irish citizens throughout the Thirty-two Counties. Section 7 of the 1956 Act refers to people born in Northern Ireland "not otherwise and Irish citizen". Most people in Northern Ireland are Irish through descent or through registration and only a very small number of Northern Ireland people would have to make a declaration.

Deputy Woods dwelled for a considerable length of time on the reasons for the three year waiting period. I should like to assure the Deputy that there was no conspiracy or suspect motive underlying this. The first priority was to have equal treatment in this regard. In saying that, I should like to emphasise that the position of the family was of great importance. When we talk about equal treatment and the right of equality for women we are very often talking about the rights of the family at the same time. However, there are conflicting arguments as to how to bring about equality in many instances. On the one hand in this instance one wants to assist the family where one of the spouses is foreign. On the other hand — and this does not apply only to Ireland but to every other country — it is accepted that citizenship is not something that should be conferred lightly. Specifically, we want to make sure that, where it is given, as in the case of marriage, we are dealing with a stable marriage. We also want to guard against marriages of convenience and that is true internationally. If there was no time condition, whether it is to be two years, three years or four years — it varies in EEC countries — there would be a danger of marriages of convenience. That would be likely to take place outside Ireland.

The majority of EEC countries apply either a residence requirement or a duration of marriage requirement. This reflects the way States protect their citizenship even in the case of foreigners married to their citizens. A three year marriage requirement is easier to comply with than a residence requirement. It also reflects the difficulties in which some couples have found themselves due to the residence requirements of foreign husbands. At present it is quite common for a person to go abroad, marry a national of another country in which she was resident and, after a few years, want to come back to Ireland for a number of reasons. The husband may want to work here or the woman may be homesick. If there was a residence requirement it could be very difficult to return. A three year duration of marriage requirement is realistic in this type of case. It does not give citizenship too easily and, at the same time, it gives a right to get citizenship where it is clear that there is a stable marriage.

Deputy Woods asked about an Italian woman married to an Irish man who dies within two years. He wanted to know how could she get Irish citizenship. We will have another look at that provision, although I felt it was taken care of under section 16 (a), Irish association. We will consider his suggestion.

The elimination of the one year notice, a feature of the Bill, was also referred to. It was felt that there was no need for any period of notice because most applicants have to be here for five years. This change was due to the experience in the Department. It happened frequently that people did not bother to apply until after they had completed the five year residential requirement. The result was that they were required to wait a longer period, for example, five years plus one year or seven years plus one year, and it was not seen as relevant.

Deputy Woods quoted figures for the number of applications for naturalisation. There may have been something amiss with the 1985 figures. Figures granted any year do not refer exclusively to applications made in that year. The number granted in 1985 would include applications made in 1984. Similarly, all applications made in 1985 would not be finalised in 1985. Some of them will appear under the granted category for 1986. Due to the time needed to process these applications the number granted in any year can exceed the number of applications for that year.

Deputy Woods mentioned refugees and suggested people were dispatched from the country in considerable haste. He referred to the Ethiopians at Shannon Airport. They are political asylum cases. The case of the guru was mentioned on a number of occasions. They were dealt with under the Aliens Act, 1935, and regulations made under that Act. Those cases are not really relevant to the Bill before the House. However, as the Deputy has referred at some length to the recent asylum cases I should like to deal with some of the points made by him. The two people who applied recently were not, as he said, dispatched in considerable haste. Their case was carefully considered over a period of approximately a week.

On a point of information, I should like to say that I did not say they were dispatched but that I was concerned about cases where people are dispatched. I knew that in the case of the two people concerned they were given more time.

In that event the Deputy is aware that their cases were carefully considered. The individuals were interviewed. The Deputy will recall that the Ethiopian student who left a Moscow bound flight in early February was allowed to stay and that was announced by the Minister for Justice. Similarly, an Ethiopian who left a Moscow bound flight last May was allowed stay. That illustrates the point made in a reply to a parliamentary question, that each case is dealt with on its merits. However, such matters are not appropriate to this debate.

I should like to express my appreciation to the House for the views expressed on the Bill. We have made notes of the various points made and they will be considered. The specific proposals in the Bill will be examined and considered again on Committee Stage. I look forward to hearing further views from Members then.

Does the Minister intend to advertise the fact that women who are married to Irish men here who have not applied for citizenship will have six months in which they can apply and avail of the present privileges? I expressed the view that I hoped the press would highlight that fact but that, after the passage of the Bill, the Minister should publish that information.

It is interesting that, although some of us here may consider that matters such as this are not given adequate publicity, in many cases there is an increase in inquiries about the various issues discussed. The case in point may relate by and large to women living abroad. So perhaps it would be important that all our Foreign Affairs staff and our embassies personnel abroad be more aware of the position. The Deputy's point is one that we might be able to give some consideration to.

Deputy Woods may ask only a short question.

I have been very brief in my questions. I accept that, as the Minister said, the question of marriages of convenience was a consideration, but can the Minister say if there were problems in relation to men marrying foreign women?

There were no such problems. The steps that were taken in the 1956 Act were appropriate for that time. There was no great consideration given to whether there might be foreign women wishing to marry Irish citizens. The feature is not one related to gender. The changes in other EEC countries are similar to what we are proposing, though in some instances — in Greece and Belgium, for example — no concession is given to either spouse on marriage. The waiting period in Greece in respect of citizenship, regardless of the circumstances, is between three and eight years, while in Belgium the period is between three and ten years. It is not a question of our thinking that there will be more marriages of convenience on the part of one sex or the other. Basically it is a question of ensuring that citizenship will not be granted easily and, to that extent, it was considered that there should be a waiting period.

Previously citizenship was granted easily to women who married Irish citizens. The Minister has confirmed that there were no problems in that area. Yet there is a fear that there could be problems in that area in the future so far as the new arrangements are concerned. The question then is what waiting period is appropriate. Extending the period to three years is a disadvantageous step. Why not provide for a one year or two year waiting period?

It would be difficult to find as lengthy a question as the Deputy is engaging in. This would be more appropriate to Committee Stage.

The Chair will have the Easter break during which to recover.

I must ensure that the rules are complied with and I intend doing that. I told the Deputy it was in order for him to put a short question but he must not embark on a discussion.

I was asking the Minister a short question.

The Deputy has no right to do this. He has embarked on what is tantamount to a Committee Stage debate and I cannot establish any such precedent.

There is one final point.

It is not a question of making a point. The Deputy may only put a question for the purpose of clarifying some point.

What I am concerned with is the perception of what has been happening in relation to people seeking asylum, for instance. The Minister did not reply to my question relating to setting out the rules and procedures which apply, so perhaps she would consider this point for Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 8 April 1986.