Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Questions (252)

Stephen Donnelly


252. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of citizenship applications affected by the recent High Court judgment by a person (details supplied) regarding the continuous residence requirement for those applying for Irish citizenship. [39350/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am aware that the recent judgment of the High Court relating to continuous residency under Section 15(1)(c) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 (as amended) has given cause for concern. The matter remains before the courts with the lodgement of an appeal before the Court of Appeal and is therefore sub-judice. I am advised by the Immigration Service of my Department that, as of 30th September 2019, there were some 18,500 applications for citizenship on hand. All of these applicants are potentially affected by the ruling. 

I can, however, assure the Deputy that my Department is doing everything possible to put in place a solution on an urgent basis. I have taken expert legal advice and I intend to introduce legislation to address the issue. At the end of July, I obtained Cabinet approval for a proposed Bill and intensive work is taking place in my Department where officials are working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in the Attorney General's Office to finalise the draft Bill.    

I am advised that the appeal is likely to be heard early next month.  The outcome of the appeal will, of course, have a bearing on whether or not legislation is required.  Should it be necessary, I intend to introduce the Bill in the Oireachtas as soon as possible this term. I know that colleagues of all parties are concerned with the difficulty that has arisen and I am hopeful that the Oireachtas will give the Bill early and positive consideration.

As soon as the legal issues are resolved, my officials will make all necessary arrangements for the next Citizenship Ceremony. Invitations will issue four weeks in advance of the ceremony to ensure everyone has adequate notice.  

In the interim, the Immigration Service of my Department is advising those who are planning to apply for citizenship to continue to collect all of the necessary proofs that support their application and to submit a comprehensive application form. Once a solution is in place, if any additional information is required, applicants will be contacted as part of the processing of their application.