I welcome the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Michael McDowell, and his officials.
Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill 2004: Committee Stage (Resumed).
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 8, to delete lines 34 to 38.
As it stands, this section prevents a person in a course of education or study in the State from passing on the benefits of residency to children born during that period. I have tabled this amendment because the situation is a little more complicated than it looks. First, there is no definition of a course of education or study. How does one distinguish between education and training? Is training banned, or is it part of the education or study process? There is no reference to it. What about a mixture of both, where there are elements of training or education and elements of work experience — a normal part of a training programme?
It seems a little harsh in any case, since many people come to the State to carry out research, which is a type of study. It could be postgraduate or other research, and many people come to the State to conduct their entire education. We have many people here studying medicine and many in the College of Surgeons. A large number of them stay on and are enabled to work in Ireland. To say they are not bona fide people who should be denied residence is a little harsh and unfair. I do not know to what the Minister is referring — perhaps it is to people who have appeared to follow some bogus form of study, but that is ruled out in itself if a course is not valid and is a bogus mechanism of obtaining a visa to come to Ireland for some other purpose.
Let us take an individual case, that of Samantha Mumba. Her father came here from Zambia as a guest of the State to train as a pilot in Baldonnel.
I believe Samantha Mumba's mother is Irish.
Yes. Do not spoil my story before I even get started.
Her father came here effectively to train and study, and quite a number of people from other countries come here when we establish projects of that nature. The ESB does the same with courses of study or training. Such people could be here for a period of three years, and I do not know the category into which they fall. In any case, the principle is one of valid and legal residency in the country, and if there is a blanket denial of access to people on courses of study, training or research, we are doing them an injustice. It is both unfair and out of kilter with the thrust of the legislation. I ask that the Minister revisit this and delete that section or table an appropriate amendment to achieve the same result.
This is really a policy decision. Does the Minister intend actively to discourage young love? The likelihood is that young students from abroad will attend our colleges of education. Apparently as a matter of policy the Minister wants to exclude that period of residency as a qualifying period for the citizenship of any offspring which might arise while they are here. Is it a rather mean and restrictive approach?
I have no problem with young love but it would be better if safe sex were practised. However, I must live in the real world. Anyone who comes to Ireland for educational purposes receives a specific stamp on his or her passport allowing him or her to stay for that purpose. Is that a long-term commitment to or presence in Ireland for Irish society? The answer in the philosophy of this Bill is "No".
We want to encourage the provision of educational services in Ireland for foreign students. We want Ireland to be a place to which they come. If they come for a course of education they are not committing to this State. It is a transient purpose. Deputy Costello refers to someone coming to work in the ESB as an apprentice. As that person would be given a work permit, he or she would not come in on an educational stamp.
Would it be described as a study programme?
There is an element of study or training in the work but there are trainee doctors and others who would need work permits or visas to work. Likewise, nurses might come and be both working and training, but it does not mean——
They do not come under this.
No. This covers people coming to third level institutions or language training colleges and the like. I want to have an orderly system whereby when they come they know that the clock is not ticking until at the end of their studies they apply — if they do — to remain in Ireland and establish themselves here. In other words, coming here for a course of study is not counted as a commitment to the Irish State sufficient to warrant the clock starting to tick. Everybody in that position knows from the moment he or she arrives that he or she is here for that purpose and as a matter of law is expected to return home at the end of the course. If one has that stamp on one's passport one does not have a licence via young love to alter one's status from a student to an admirer of a member of the opposite sex or whatever.
I am a romantic at heart.
That is the position. This was made clear to the electorate at the time of the referendum. I have not taken it out of the bottom drawer now. We said at that time that the period as an asylum seeker before refugee status and in education would not qualify as residency periods when the law was brought in. It is not meanness. It is simply being practical.
Let us recall we still have the Chen case and all that implies. If we say that one way into Europe is to come to Ireland to study and have a child to establish rights, it will distort the true motive for people pursuing educational courses. That is not a good thing.
I accept what the Minister has said. We would obviously then be ruling out all the students who come here to the Royal College of Surgeons and that type of student. Would we also be ruling people who come here on research scholarships or are invited in to do some laboratory research work?
It all depends on the nature of the work. If one is here on a scholarship and receives a bursary of some kind one is here for education. If one is here to work on a project which requires a work permit and receives a salary from a third level institution one would not have the education stamp on one's passport. I have enough difficulty as things stand trying to sort out whether people are coming to learn English or to study business or to work here. It is not easy to keep a fair system of distinction between real students and make-believe ones. There have been a few high profile instances where the student status has proved to be either non-existent or very tiny.
The philosophy behind this Bill is that if one is part of the Irish community and can testify to that by having lawful status to reside here for three years, one is considered to have a long enough attachment to Ireland to qualify as a parent for whose child citizenship will be available as of right. If one is a student one comes here on the basis that one goes home at the end of one's period of studies. That is a temporary situation which is not considered to be a sufficient link with the Irish State to give an automatic entitlement to citizenship. If someone came as a student and at some stage thereafter had a child and later remained in Ireland, through marriage to an Irish person or getting a job in Ireland or whatever, after five years that person would be entitled to apply for citizenship and naturalisation, and entitled under section 16 for his or her child to be made an Irish citizen. There is not a great difference between the two but I do not want education abused as a back door to Irish citizenship.
I will not pursue it any further but I believe it is an unnecessary exemption and I will not withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 8, line 45, to delete "Immigration Act" and substitute "Act of".
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 8, line 46, to delete "Refugee Act" and substitute "Act of".
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 8, line 48, after "subsection" to insert the following:
"unless refugee status is subsequently granted to the person".
Someone who has been in the asylum process for years should have the opportunity of having his or her time taken into consideration if he or she has got refugee status. It should be possible to backdate the period of lawful residence to the time of the original application. We spoke yesterday about people who have been in the system for some time — seven or nine years. In those circumstances it seems that refugee status should be backdated if the person is recognised to have submitted a proper application form in the first place. If any children were born in that time it would seem very unfair not to consider the asylum period, especially since there is quite a backlog and a delay in many cases. It makes sense that someone who successfully achieves refugee status after three years in the application process would have his or her residency extended to cover that period rather than starting from the time refugee status was granted. It is a logical and reasonable approach.
There is a case to be made here, the only technical difficulty is that it involves backdating citizenship.
We are talking about an entitlement to citizenship by birth. We are now making it conditional on a condition subsequent to being satisfied that the child could be born and a later decision——
The principle is the length of residency prior to birth. Residency has been established.
Frequently people are denied refugee status, they are notified of this and they write telling me they are suffering from AIDS or that the child suffers from sickle cell anaemia and in the circumstances it would be cruel to send them back. They appeal for leave to remain on humanitarian grounds. In some cases I grant that leave to remain when the person has failed as an asylum seeker. If someone has a five year old or nine year old child who was born in Ireland, it is unlikely I will deport that person. It is unlikely that I will say to a child who has grown up in Ireland that he or she must go home. It happens on occasion where children who have attended school have been sent home because they come in as siblings, but it is unlikely I would do it in a case such as this. It is not the end of the world for some people that they have failed in the asylum process because I then grant leave to remain on humanitarian grounds. At that stage, if they get that leave and remain in Ireland for a sufficient length of time, they can apply to become Irish citizens and for citizenship for their children.
When would a child in this case be entitled to a passport? When the asylum process is underway, is the child a potential Irish citizen? I do not want to go down that road, there must be a clear cut law. If a child's parents are here lawfully for three years, any child born to them is entitled to Irish citizenship from birth. I do not want to create a new category of children in limbo who may or may not be entitled to Irish citizenship from birth.
This is the same as the position I took on Deputy Costello's amendment yesterday about time running before or after birth. If Deputies are worried that a child born during the asylum process to someone who is later granted refugee status will be isolated from subsequent siblings born after recognition who will be entitled to Irish citizenship, they can rest assured there are specific provisions in the Bill designed to ensure such a child can be naturalised in due course. I refer Deputies to the amendment of the 1956 Act in section 8 of the Bill which is designed to ensure children in this situation, among others, can be naturalised. The Bill adopts the correct balance as it applies to children of asylum seekers on one hand and refugees on the other. Any apparent anomalies or hard cases can in practice be rectified by the naturalisation process which is fully underpinned by the amendment to section of 8 of this Bill.
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 9, line 25, to delete "statutory".
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 9, to delete lines 28 to 31.
It is largely agreed. I raised the issue of an independent appeals procedure and I will pursue it further. I understand the Minister's approach that someone must decide but I worry about the lack of transparency and openness of the process.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 9, before section 5, to insert the following new section:
5.—Section 9 of the Principal Act is amended
(a) by inserting ‘or mother’ after each occurrence of the word ‘father’;
(b) by inserting ‘or her’ after the first occurrence of ‘his’.”.
This is a technical amendment on statute law relating to statements. The Bill can be looked at as almost technical and is, therefore, perfect for facilitating a statute law restatement in the area. Section 5 is a non-textual amendment and I tabled it for technical purposes.
The intention behind the Government amendment to section 9 of the 1956 Act, which deals with the question of citizenship and posthumous birth, was to introduce gender balance into the text of that section. I am advised by parliamentary counsel to the Government that the text in the Bill achieves the aim.
The different drafting approach, taking in Deputy Jim O'Keeffe's approach, looks attractive at first but there is scope for ambiguity or, at least, grammatical infelicity. In the drafting approach taken by the Deputy, I presume the second reference to "mother" should refer to the first reference to "mother". As currently drafted, however, the Deputy's text is open to the construction that the second reference to "mother" refers to the first reference to "father". The same applies to the second reference to "father". To follow through on the lines of that approach would require some further wording and I could not say if that would be a judiciously placed "or as the case may be" or a separate paragraph to deal with each parent.
I am examining if section 9 of the 1956 Act is now superfluous in view of the provisions being introduced in the proposed section 6(8) to the Act by the insertion made under section 4 of the Bill and the current provisions of section 7 of the Act. If it turns out, as I suspect it may, that section 9 is completely superfluous, then the different drafting approaches to its gender balancing being taken by the Deputy and me will be redundant.
That is as clear as the darkness of the night but we have our different drafting approaches and we will see the upshot of it.
We will see if there is anything left to amend when it is all over.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 9, before section 6, to insert the following new section:
6.—The Principal Act is amended by the substitution of the following section for section 10:
‘10. Every deserted infant first found in the State shall, unless the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been born in the island of Ireland to parents at least one of whom is an Irish citizen.'.".
The purpose of this amendment is technical in nature in order to ensure that every deserted infant first found in the State will acquire an entitlement to Irish citizenship. The mechanism for doing this is to deem, unless the contrary can be proved, that the infant is born on the island of Ireland to parents at least one of whom is an Irish citizen. The effect of the amendment is to add this second condition to what is already in the Bill. In this way, the foundling's entitlement to Irish citizenship will arise by operation of law.
We did not want a situation in which the new qualifying criteria would leave some children, whose parentage was not capable of being ascertained, in total limbo. We decided that if, for instance, a child was handed in at an orphanage or found on a park bench, as sometimes tragically happens, the law would presume that child to have been born to an Irish parent.
Will the Minister indicate how often this situation arises? Is it reasonably regular or are there just a few instances during the year? There are references to "foundlings" in the proposed amendment as well as a reference to a "deserted infant". Is there any scope for confusion between the different references? The play, The Importance of Being Earnest presented such a situation on the stage. Is it an issue in practical terms?
Whatever happens, this is a welcome amendment.
Having queried the matter, the Deputy has raised a doubt in the mind of the lawyer. However, section 10 of the 1956 Act states: "Every deserted infant first found in the State shall, unless the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been born in Ireland", which was later amended to state: "the island of Ireland". Now that the Deputy has raised the issue, I want to be sure about whether a 16 year old is an infant for the purposes of this provision. We need to examine that issue between now and Report Stage. I do not want to be confronted with strapping lads who say they are deserted and challenge me to prove they are not Irish.
On the basis that the Minister will examine the issue further to ensure we are totally on the correct track and will not end up with strapping big babies who should not really qualify——
I do not want that either and I will examine the issue between now and Report Stage. This is conventional language in international measures dealing with this issue and I do not think a court would interpret as including a big hefty 16 year old, but I must make absolutely sure it will not because it would be quite a loophole.
Amendments Nos. 31 to 33, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 10, lines 28 and 29, to delete all words from and including "a" in line 28 down to and including "if" in line 29 and substitute the following:
", reference to Irish associations shall not include the making of an investment in Ireland but shall include circumstances where a person meets one of the following criteria".
The purpose of section 10 is to tighten the definition of persons of Irish association in order to eliminate the passports for sale scheme but in the process, as the Minister stated himself, he is also creating a narrower interpretation of Irish association for those who can dispense with the normal procedures for naturalisation. We are all in agreement with its intention in respect of the passports for sale scheme which was such a disaster because of the questions raised about the validity of some of the passports issued, even though the intention of bringing capital and investment into the country was a good one. I hope the Minister will also provide for the revocation of existing passports where there is enough evidence to show that the persons who received the passports have abused them and not used them for the intended purposes.
We now have a narrow interpretation of what constitutes a person of Irish association, which is now restricted in terms of blood relationship, adoption and affinity, which is the relationship of marriage, as I understand it. The definition of "affinity" may be wider than that, however, and perhaps the Minister would inform me whether it extends beyond marriage, given that it does not extend to partners, as the Minister informed me yesterday.
Irish association is also extended to a person adopted by an Irish citizen or a person who, if alive, would have been an Irish citizen. This would seem to make it more difficult for people such as the Argentinians who wrote to the Minister and about whom I tabled a question to him in the House. This refers to the many people of Irish descent who are living in Argentina and who have just missed out on the "grandfather" criteria as they are great-grandchildren of Irish citizens. The narrowing of the definition in this section seems to rule out such people as persons being able to dispense with the normal conditions of naturalisation. Is the definition of "Irish association" too narrow, given that the Minister seems to be restricting his own criteria and discretionary powers? Will the Minister re-examine the issue or explain the impact of the new interpretation of "Irish association"?
It is interesting that we are reverting to discussion on exactly what "Irish association" means. On Second Stage, I recalled that almost 50 years ago when the 1956 Act was before the House, Deputy Barrett from Cork stated that he thought the reference to Irish association would lead to "much mischief" and Deputy Ó Móráin from Mayo stated that the definition at that time was so loose that an Arab drinking an Irish whiskey in Cairo could be considered to have Irish associations. The Minister seems to have gone to the other end of the pendulum swing and I wonder how wise that is.
The Minister now provides that a person is of Irish association if he or she is related by blood, affinity or adoption. Is there a need for a definition of "related by blood"? What does it mean? Am I related by blood to my great-grandfather or how far back does one go? Is there not an artificial barrier in our citizenship laws,given that one cannot cite relatives before grandfathers? Deputy Costello mentioned the case of a group of Irish Argentinians whose families go back three or four generations and can therefore not claim Irish citizenship. Can they claim Irish association or is there a distinction? Perhaps that is the distinction.
When we discussed the issue of affinity yesterday, the Minister mentioned that, according to his advice, the definition included marriage. Does it go beyond that? What about the position of a long-term partnership arrangement, which brings us to the current issue of same sex relationships? How wide is the definition of affinity? Should we not have a definition for it? I am merely raising questions to ensure that we are clear about what we end up with and that we do not exclude any group that we might subsequently feel should have been included as being of Irish association.
There are a number of subparagraphs in section 16 providing the Minister with absolute discretion to grant a certificate of naturalisation even if some or all of the conditions for naturalisation are not complied with. The first concerns whether the applicant is of Irish descent or Irish association. The question of Irish association does not necessarily arise in the sense that if one is of Irish descent, this is taken as an absolute. Irish association is now being given a statutory meaning.
The purpose of the amendments is to extend the circumstances in which I, in my absolute discretion, would, under the proposed new definition of Irish association under section 16, be in a position to grant a certificate of naturalisation in cases where the normal conditions for naturalisation have not been fulfilled. They would, in addition, allow the Minister to take all circumstances into account in exercising his discretion except, it seems, an investment in Ireland.
In amendment No. 31, Deputy Costello seeks to insert, as an exclusion to the proposed section 16(2), the making of an investment in Ireland. The proposed section 16(2) of the Bill, as it stands, defines precisely what is meant by Irish association, namely, relationship by blood, affinity or adoption. It has no other meaning. It does not seek to penalise or exclude the possibility of a waiver for those who have made investments once they have the necessary relationship. However, it does mean that all the investments in the world will not allow the Minister to waive the conditions for naturalisation based on Irish association if the applicant for naturalisation does not have the necessary relationship. Therefore, if a person happens to have a blood relationship with an Irish citizen and also makes an investment in Ireland, the Minister should be allowed to take that into account in exercising his or her discretion. If the investment has been in illegal dumps or some nefarious enterprise, it should definitely be taken into account in the most negative way.
On the basis of Deputy Costello's amendment, it would appear that once the necessary connection with an Irish citizen has been established, the Minister will be in a position to take all of the relevant circumstances, other than investment, into account. The problem with the investment-based naturalisation scheme was that it provided a mechanism for the waiver of the normal conditions of naturalisation where the person in question had little or no connection with Ireland. The people I am covering must have a substantial connection to Ireland. It would be rather odd if I were empowered to waive the normal conditions for naturalisation in the case of one blood relative of an Irish citizen on the grounds that he or she had promoted an Irish industry abroad, while at the same time being precluded from waiving those conditions in the case of a sister who had invested heavily in an Irish business at home.
This seems to be a question not of principle but of drafting. We are all agreed that the term "Irish association" should not be taken to consist of the making of an investment in Ireland. My proposal in the Bill clarifies this and does so by the simple expedient of stating what "Irish association" exclusively means. Since investment is not mentioned in the definition of the term, it can never be the case that the Minister can waive the conditions for naturalisation solely on the basis of an investment made by a stranger who is not of Irish descent — that is the first element of paragraph (a) — and who does not come within the definition of “Irish association”, as set out in the Bill as it stands.
The difficulty with Deputy Costello's amendment is that I do not know where I stand. Am I never to waive the conditions for naturalisation where somebody has made an investment in the State, even if the investment were one that furthered the academic, social or cultural life of Ireland, as the Deputy's amendment, No. 33, puts it? My proposal is unambiguous while the Deputy's reintroduces an unnecessary and possibly dangerous note of ambiguity.
On amendment No. 32, the existing powers contained in the Acts that enable the Minister to waive the normal conditions of naturalisation in the case of Irish descent remain unchanged. The provision is not necessary regarding persons of direct lineal Irish ancestry. A descendant of, say, Charles Stewart Parnell, who was certainly Irish but who preceded the founding of the State and thus could never be an Irish citizen, would be a person for whom the normal conditions for naturalisation could be waived, not because of Irish association but because of Irish descent. Whether the same could be said for Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, who was born in Dublin and famously said that just because he was born in a stable did not mean he was a horse, is not a matter that we have to consider.
I am satisfied that the special affinity — I use this word in its colloquial sense — with persons of Irish ancestry living abroad is dealt with properly by the present reference to Irish descent in section 16 of the Act and that Irish association should be determined by reference to the links in the proposed amendment to Irish citizens rather than to persons born in Ireland, some of whom will not be Irish citizens. The latter would be a side effect of the Deputy's amendments. I ask him to withdraw amendment No. 32 on the basis that its principal intended effect is already achieved by the provisions of the 1956 Act.
Amendment No. 33 seeks to widen the proposed definition of Irish association to enable the Minister to waive normal conditions for naturalisation in the case where he or she considers that the applicant has made a significant contribution to the academic, social or cultural life of Ireland, other than a contribution in the nature of an investment. This gives very considerable latitude to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which is precisely what I have been trying to get away from. Under the tax Acts, for example, we exempted authors of texts that had a cultural significance. As a barrister, I successfully argued that legal textbooks were of cultural significance. Once somebody has written a textbook he can argue his case for an exemption. The thrust of my new definition of "Irish association" is to pin down the term by reference to objectively verifiable sets of circumstances. Relationships by blood, affinity or adoption constitute such circumstances. However, my view of a person who has made a significant contribution to the social life of the State might differ significantly from that of Deputy Costello.
The amendment envisages circumstances in which a person who does not meet the normal criteria for naturalisation nonetheless makes an application to the Minister claiming to have made a substantial contribution to the academic, social or cultural life of Ireland sufficient to warrant his being granted citizenship. Perhaps this is reminiscent of the Pharisee at the top of the temple who boasted that he gave tithes of all his possessions. Section 12 of the existing Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act empowers the President to grant Irish citizenship as a token of honour to a person who, in the opinion of the Government, rather than that of a Minister or an applicant, "has done signal honour or rendered distinguished service to the nation". The President has done this on occasion. Jack Charlton was a recipient of Irish citizenship on that account.
My amendment alludes to a significant contribution to the social or cultural life of the nation.
The President and Government can do that already. The Deputy is proposing that I should be able to do so over in St. Stephen's Green. The decision should be above board and involve a solemn act of the Irish State done by the President on the advice of the Government and not, as implied in the amendment, something I should decide to do at my desk one afternoon.
Without being in any way divisive, let me return to remarks that were made yesterday about people who were granted citizenship unwisely. Such decisions crossed a number of Administrations. One particular Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform granted, totally blamelessly, citizenship to a particular gentleman from Czechoslovakia
There is a full amendment on that subject, No. 37.
The then Minister granted citizenship totally blamelessly but it does not reflect adversely on her in any way that the Czechoslovakian did not turn out to be all she thought he was.
The thrust of my amendments was to give the Minister more discretion in certain areas and slightly less discretion in regard to the sale of passports based on investment. As it stands, the Minister will be able to take an investment into consideration as long as there is some other link, such as a blood relationship, for example. Investment would remain a consideration. Does this refer solely to the investment of money or does it also relate to a cultural, sporting or academic investment? Will the Minister please clarify the matter? He appears to rule out the other half of my last amendment which would consider investment in terms of culture.
The text of section 10 refers to somebody related by blood, affinity or adoption to a person who is deceased and who at the time of his or her death was an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen. That covers everybody who could not have been an Irish citizen pre-1922 before the foundation of the State. As long as a person is of Irish descent, he or she is equally covered so it is superfluous to mention people who would be entitled to Irish citizenship if the State had been founded at another time.
I confirm that is the case.
I welcome that. The last point also relates to amendment No. 33. The Minister said a provision already exists in terms of the President or Government making a special exemption in regard to waiving the rules on citizenship for a person who has made a special contribution. Should this provision not be broader than that? I speak of an investment of social capital that would be nothing other than beneficial. If one already allows scope for somebody to make a monetary investment, as long as it is tied up with other considerations, could this not be extended to an investment of cultural, social or academic capital which would be of benefit to the nation?
The terms of section 12 of the 1956 Act should be studied. It states:
(1) The President may grant citizenship as a token of honour to a person or to the child or grandchild of a person who, in the opinion of the Government, has done signal honour or rendered distinguished service to the nation.
(2) A certificate of Irish citizenship shall be issued to the person to whom citizenship is so granted and he shall, from the date of the certificate, be an Irish citizen.
(3) Notice of the issue of the certificate of citizenship shall be published as soon as may be in Iris Oifigiúil.
This is a very broad provision. The Government can grant citizenship to anyone who, in its opinion, has done signal honour or rendered distinguished service to the nation.
That is pretty exceptional and means the Government has to make a decision at Cabinet level and the President has to become involved. We should recognise significant contributions of that meritorious type of capital that would benefit the country.
I think of people like Sir Alfred Chester Beatty or Sir Alfred Beit who donated their entire art collection to the Irish people. The Government might decide that such a person had done signal honour or rendered distinguished service to the Irish nation. In such circumstances it can grant that person citizenship as a token of honour, but it is full citizenship and a passport goes with it.
That is a particular and distinct category. What about the other side of it, combining it with other factors? One still has the scope to grant citizenship if somebody makes a significant monetary investment.
I have no doubt the Government could well decide to honour a different Sir Alfred Beit or Sir Alfred Chester Beatty who decided to build a hospital, university, school of medicine, theatre, vast art gallery, opera house or something of that nature.
I speak of extending the Minister's power rather than having it as a major Government decision.
It would be a major decision. I do not want the power to grant citizenship to people who invest in factories.
The Minister is leaving that possibility open as long as there are other considerations.
No, I am not.
He has just told us so.
It is open to a person who has Irish associations, as now statutorily defined. There is nothing wrong with that. If somebody who has a connection with Ireland by blood or affinity does something which is of significant benefit to the State, I should be in a position to grant that person citizenship.
If that is the case, is the Minister stating that anyone who has made a significant social, academic or cultural contribution would be treated in an equal fashion?
There is not a word in the Bill about investment. If I can do it for one reason I can do it for another. If there are two people, one of whom is of Irish descent and who builds an opera house, I can grant him citizenship based on Irish associations or I can waive the normal conditions based on the fact that he has Irish associations.
In the case of somebody who has no connection with Ireland at all, such as a sheik, the Government would have to rely on section 12 if it wanted to grant that person citizenship. It would have to do this in a solemn way and the President would have to confer citizenship on the advice of the Government. That is a much healthier situation than the one that existed for a number of years.
Regarding citizenship and investment, it is important to bear in mind that the scheme was introduced in good faith. Deputy John Bruton, following a trip to Hong Kong, was the person who first mooted the exploration of it as a concept, although he did not remain in office long enough to follow through on his idea. He was the first person to suggest it within Government and I think he did so on entirely reasonable grounds as there did not appear to be any other way of attracting investment here at the time.
The problem was not the idea; it was the way it was run initially that caused problems.
That is the whole point. The fundamental concept was sound.
We must come to a conclusion.
I will not pursue it, except to say that we now have a narrower definition of Irish association and I had hoped to broaden it.
If anyone wants an extension I am game to stay for a while more.
There is a motion of referral which we must consider later today.
To reconvene simply to take the remaining four amendments would be quite inconvenient.
If it were possible for the committee to meet at 1 p.m., there would be no cameras but there would be sound recording.
I do not know what state my diary is in. Maybe we will leave it.
We will wait a moment for the Minister to check his diary. If we reconvene, it will be immediately after our private meeting on the motion.
If Deputy Jim O'Keeffe intends to make significant statements, he may want to have the cameras on.
Who wants the cameras to the same extent as the Minister?
I had hoped to finish within an hour, but there are items which must be discussed.
The Whips have given me a slot in the Dáil on 23 November for Report Stage. I would like to avail of it, if I can.
The other option is to meet between 9.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. tomorrow morning, if everybody agrees.
Is there a problem with going ahead now?
I have organised with the committee an hour long meeting with the Hungarian ambassador at 10.30 a.m., after which we will discuss the motion of referral. Either we continue Committee Stage at 1 p.m. today or at 9.30 a.m. tomorrow morning.
A morning meeting would suit me better as I must go to the Institute of European Affairs at 1.30 p.m. today.