Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (13)

Jack Wall

Question:

11 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to reports that a number of persons wanted for criminal offences abroad are travelling under Irish passports granted under the passports for investment scheme; if, in particular, his attention has been further drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) who has been declared a fugitive by the Czech Government and is wanted in connection with a major financial scandal in that country and is reported to be planning to use the Irish passport to stand in the forthcoming European Parliament elections; if there are grounds under section 19 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 for withdrawing the passport of this person, or others wanted for criminal offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2505/04]

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

Section 19 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 empowers the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to revoke a certificate of naturalisation in a number of specified circumstances. Those circumstances include cases where the issue of the certificate was procured by fraud, misrepresentation, whether innocent or fraudulent, or concealment of material facts or circumstances; the person to whom it was granted has, by any overt act, shown himself to have failed in his duty of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State; the person to whom it is granted is also, under the law of a country at war with the State, a citizen of that country; and the person to whom it is granted has by any voluntary act other than marriage acquired another citizenship.

Before revoking a certificate of naturalisation, the Minister must give notice to the person to whom the certificate was granted of his intention, stating the grounds therefor and the right of that person to apply to him for an inquiry as to the reasons for the revocation. If the person in question makes such a request, the Minister is obliged to appoint a committee of inquiry consisting of a chairman having judicial experience and such other person as he may think fit, and refer the case to it. Thereafter the committee must report its findings to the Minister with a view to informing his decision.

It is clear therefore that the revocation of a certificate of naturalisation is a serious matter and one in which the Minister must be in a position to show that the legal requirements have been fulfilled.

It has never been the practice to comment on the detail of individual cases and I do not intend to depart from that practice. If the Deputy, or indeed any Member of this House, is aware of any particular cases where the exercise of my power under section 19 may be appropriate, relevant details should be passed to the Minister for investigation by the gardaí.

Details of several recipients of certificates of naturalisation under the investment based scheme were referred to the gardaí a number of years ago for investigation but, following consideration of the reports of the investigations, it was concluded that there were insufficient grounds to justify invoking section 19 at that time.

The Deputy can be assured that if the circumstances of any particular case warrant revocation under the above provisions, I will have no hesitation in utilising my statutory powers to the fullest extent possible.