News & Media

Sherlock welcomes judgment on Citizenship appeal

14 November 2019

Statement by Seán Sherlock TD
Parliamentary Party Chair and Spokesperson on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands; Agriculture and the Marine

Labour Justice spokesperson Seán Sherlock has welcomed today’s Court of Appeal ruling on citizenship. He said that, while the decision did not assist the appellant, Mr Roderick Jones, it did provide much needed clarity on the law to be applied to pending and future citizenship applications, and gave certainty to thousands of people who have been naturalised under the law in recent years.

Deputy Sherlock said:

“This whole problem arose because a section in our 1956 Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act requires an applicant for citizenship to have ‘a period of one year's continuous residence in the State immediately before the date of the application’. The term ‘continuous residence’ is not used in any other Irish Act, nor is it defined in law.

“The strictly literal ruling given by the High Court meant that someone applying for citizenship could not leave the State at all – even for a day trip to Belfast – for 12 months before their application. If they did, they would be held not to be continuously residing here.

“This shock ruling had the potential to create enormous practical difficulties for those seeking Irish citizenship through naturalisation. It might also have given rise to questions about citizenships already granted.

“Fortunately, the appeal against this judgement was fast-tracked and the judgement has been relatively swiftly delivered.

“But, while the Court of Appeal has given sanction for the Minister’s discretionary practice of allowing applicants six weeks out of the State for holiday or other reasons, and more time in exceptional circumstances, I still believe in a belt-and-braces approach. I believe the Minister now has the time to prepare legislation which addresses the lack of definition in the law and gives a statutory basis to his administrative practice of allowing six weeks or so outside the jurisdiction.

“These amendments could be incorporated into a wider and also much needed reform of our citizenship laws to address recently highlighted cases of children born here, or who have resided here most of their lives, who have been threatened with deportation.”