I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 248 together.
Entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The Act distinguishes between the entitlement to citizenship by birth and descent and to the acquisition of citizenship through the naturalisation process. Following a referendum of the Irish people, the 27th amendment to the Constitution changed the situation in relation to entitlement to Irish Citizenship. As a result, Section 6 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 was amended by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2004. The changes came into effect on 1st January 2005. As of that date a person born in the island of Ireland is not entitled to be an Irish citizen, unless that person's parents have been resident in the island of Ireland for a total of three years during the four years preceding that person's birth. Periods of unlawful residence, periods of residence which were for the sole purpose of having an application for refugee status determined or periods of residence where permission was granted for the purposes of study are excluded from the determination of periods of reckonable residence.
Where a child born in the State did not, at birth, have an entitlement to Irish citizenship, the parent or guardian or person who is in loco parentis to the child may lodge an application for naturalisation on behalf of the child if and when the conditions for naturalisation are satisfied, including a requirement to have a total of 5 years residence in the State. This ensures that, even where a child born in the State did not have an entitlement to Irish citizenship, there is a path to obtaining Irish citizenship through naturalisation.
I recognise that there are some cases of young people who have grown up here but who, as a result of their parents' illegal status, find themselves in a difficult situation. However, it is important to emphasise once again, that when it comes to people living here illegally, the only option for regularisation is on a case by case basis. Inevitably, granting permission to children and young people who reside in Ireland in an undocumented capacity will require that other family members must also be allowed to remain in order to care for and support the children. However, where people who have had an application for residence refused or who simply overstay their permission to reside in this country and do not apply for an extension to their permission, the State must be allowed to exercise its legal right to remove them from the State. It would be unwise to permit people to simply ignore our immigration laws and allow them and their families to remain here merely on the basis of the length of time that they have resided here without permission.
I would clarify for the Deputy, however, that my Department is currently exploring the various policy options available for addressing the issue of undocumented children having regard to international best practice.
I met with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) in June to discuss the situation and my Department is engaging with MRCI and other NGOs on this matter. Another meeting is planned at official level shortly.
In all cases, people must engage with the authorities if they wish to be permitted to remain here legally. I would encourage any person who is resident in the State without permission to contact my Department or their local immigration office and to take all appropriate steps to regularise their family's status.