On the 18th of July a calamity happened, or so the immigration lawyers would have you believe. Mr Justice Max Barrett, in a landmark High Court ruling, held that the Minister for Justice could not offer exemptions to a clause which required those seeking to acquire Irish citizenship be resident in the State for a “continuous” period of one year.
In order to fully appreciate this victory in the Courts for those of us who are sceptical of mass migration, let me take you back to the beginning.
On the 11th of June 2004, the Irish people voted overwhelmingly to end “birth-right citizenship” (that is, to acquire citizenship simply by being born on the island of Ireland,regardless of circumstances).
This transition from Jus Soli (“right of land,” or birth-right citizenship) had long lost favour throughout the Western world (only the United States operates such a system today). What we chose to implement in its stead was Jus Sanguinis (“right of blood,” or citizenship-by-descent), whereby those with at least one Irish grandparent would be entitled to acquire Irish citizenship.
The legislation also allowed for “naturalisation” of foreign citizens (making them Irish citizens), and was filled with broad and lax “restrictions.
The requirements to acquire Irish citizenship includes satisfying the following conditions:
- You’re over the age of 18.
- You meet the residence requirement (that is, you’ve had to live 5 of the last 9 years in Ireland, with at least one year continuous residence in the year before you make the application).
- You intend to continue living in the State
- You are of good character
- You attend a citizenship ceremony and make a declaration of fidelity or loyalty to the State.
No Irish or English language requirement, no civic history to be learned, no specific act to prove your fidelity. Just live here, keep your nose out of trouble, and hey presto, you’re an Irish citizen.
Now, what’s the big hullabaloo about? Well, the requirement to have “one year’s continuous residence immediately before the application” is what has thrown a spanner in the works.
The Minister for Justice had previously allowed individuals seeking naturalisation to leave the country for up to 6 weeks in the year before their application.
Nowhere in the legislation was he given this power, and he was deemed to be acting ultra vires (outside of his authority). That’s it. When this was pointed out, the media circus and the chattering classes kicked themselves into a frenzy.
“Barbaric,” some immigration lawyers said. “It’s like a prison sentence,” a certain immigrant said on Twitter. How dare the State intrude upon the pay packets of immigration lawyers and activists.
Citizenship is the highest honour our country can bestow upon people, and we’re told we’re being cruel by asking them to simply live in the country for an unbroken year.
I have quite often spent more than a year without going abroad, indeed when I was young, we only went on holiday every three or four years. I didn’t think this was a prison sentence, or cruel. But maybe that’s because I love my country.
Forgive me for saying this, but if you can’t even live in the country for one year without going abroad, one year without going home – how can we expect you to live up to your fidelity to the Nation? Why should we give you the greatest gift in our possession?
Maybe, if you don’t like it, you should just go somewhere else, and leave our beautiful island to us? Feel free to take the gombeen immigration lawyers with you, we won’t miss them.