Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Questions (182)

Gay Mitchell


301 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has responded to a petition given to his Department by Argentine descendants of Irish nationals (details supplied); the response of his Department to this petition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2385/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The petition referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on 26 June 2002. It was not possible to respond individually to the petitioners, of whom there were in the order of 2,000, but officials in the citizenship section of my Department have set out the position on a number of occasions to the named individual, who was one of the signatories to the petition.

The petition requested that I allow Argentine born great-grandchildren of Irish nationals to become Irish nationals themselves or to allow them to seek and obtain employment in Ireland as if they were Irish nationals.

The position is that the great-grandchildren of persons born in Ireland can obtain Irish citizenship by registering in the foreign births register provided either of their parents had at the time of their birth acquired Irish citizenship through registration in the foreign births register. There is one exception to that rule. If one parent had registered in the foreign births register prior to 31 December 1986 the person can register even if the parent had not registered at the time of that person's birth.

If persons are not entitled to Irish citizenship in these circumstances, they may nevertheless be entitled to Irish citizenship as a result of marriage to an Irish citizen, post-nuptial citizenship. A person is entitled to make a declaration of post-nuptial citizenship if he/she is married to an Irish citizen who is Irish other than by naturalisation, post-nuptial citizenship or honorary citizenship for at least three years. The marriage must be valid and subsisting and the couple must be living together as husband and wife at the time of declaration. The post-nuptial process has been repealed with effect from 30 November 2002. By way of a transitional provision, persons who are married to Irish citizens before that date but fail to satisfy the three year criterion at that time can make the declaration after that date upon completion of three years of marriage. The transitional provision will cease to apply on 30 November 2005.

Finally, any non-national, be they Argentinian or otherwise, can apply for Irish citizenship through naturalisation. Such applications are considered under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts, 1956 to 2001, and the granting of a certificate of naturalisation is at my absolute discretion. The applicant must fulfil certain statutory requirements, including requirements in relation to residency. However, I am empowered to dispense with the statutory conditions in whole or in part in certain circumstances, for example where the applicant is of Irish descent or Irish associations. Every such application is decided upon on its individual circumstances and in accordance with the law. It should be noted also that the statutory residency requirements for persons who are married to Irish citizens have been reduced from 30 November 2002 in view of the fact that post-nuptial citizenship will no longer be available.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2001, which was enacted on 6 June 2001, made extensive changes to Irish citizenship law as enunciated in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956 to 1994 and it is not intended to revisit the issue of foreign births registration in the foreseeable future.

Argentine citizens do not require an Irish visa to enter the State. However, if an Argentine citizen wishes to work in the State, an employer should obtain a work permit on his or her behalf from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.