We have recently made submissions to the Minister on behalf of a client who is waiting a determination of his application for Naturalization for a period of over four years and four months. It has been indicated that to us that our client’s application for Naturalization is being considered “in the normal way” with a view to be establishing that he has met the statutory requirements for Naturalization.
We cannot accept this response as reasonable or adequate in the circumstances of our client’s case. He does not present as a person who would potentially be ineligible for Naturalization pursuant to the Statutory requirements of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956 to 2004. He has lawfully resided in the State for over ten years. He is married to and EU national. He is a highly qualified person, and has always been in employment in this State. He has never come to the adverse attention to the Gardai in the State or any other country.
We recently wrote to the Minister to request to know why is this application taking over twice as long to process as the average application? Why is he being discriminated against compared to the average applicant? What has the Department been doing while processing his application over the course of four years and four months? When can our client expect to complete the processing of this application? We also indicated that we have submitted many applications for Naturalization whereby the applicant has been found not to meet the criteria of the Citizenship Acts and these applications have been determined in periods of time far less than this client.
It was indicated to us in a responding correspondence from the Citizenship Section that should our client issue court proceedings in an attempt to compel the Minister to determine the application, that he would strictly be pursued for costs. This assertion was based on a number of judgments from the High Court from 2009 and 2010 where it was held that because Naturalization is a privilege, an applicant can not compel the Minister to determine the application (Nawaz versus Minister for Justice, 29th July 2009, Bepo v versus Minister for Justice 18th June 2009, Tabi versus Minister for Justice 16th April 2010 and Jiad versus Minister for Justice 19th May 2010 ).
Thus, there is nothing an applicant such as our client can do put continue to wait without any understanding regarding why his application is being treated so unfavourably.
It is interesting to compare the UK Naturalization process.
Currently, the granting of a Certificate of Naturalisation is at the discretion of the Home Office. Applicants are required to be aged 18 years or over, of sound mind, intend to continue living in the United Kingdom or to maintain close links with the United Kingdom, be able to communicate in English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic to an acceptable degree, be of good character, meet certain residential requirements of five years or three years – with conditions attached to each. Applicants are also required
to have sufficient knowledge of life in the United Kingdom (with the exception of those who are over 65 years of age or are suffering from a long term mental condition preventing them from being tested on their knowledge ).
Applicants are entitled to have an acknowledgement receipt of their application within a number of weeks of submitting the application, and Applicants can accept to receive a determination of the application within a six month period. Applicants may also be required to attend an interview.
The Home Office has recently introduced strict new requirements which potential applicants will be required to meet in order to meet the criteria necessary to be approved. Applicants will now be required to have knowledge of British history in order to pass the citizenship test. Prime Minister David Cameron has noted the fact that the current test examines knowledge about the roles and powers of the main institutions of Europe and the benefits system in the United Kingdom. He is hopeful that the new test will be centred on British history and culture. It is thought that the new rule requiring knowledge of British history may prove to be a significantly more difficult obstacle for those who seek to be accepted as citizens of the United Kingdom in the future.
There is no similar requirement for knowledge of Irish history for Naturalisation in Ireland. Applications are decided upon by the Minister for Justice and Equality, who enjoys absolute discretion. Many of the general requirements are similar to the United Kingdom such as the requirement to be aged 18 or older and of good character. Applicant must intend to reside in the state after naturalisation, make a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the state, to undertake to observe the laws of the state and respect democratic values. One is also expected to be supporting themselves and their dependents while living in the state when they make their application.
The great difficulty with the Irish Naturalisation process is that it is the complete lack of transparency. This allows for blatant disregard for fair procedures like the example of the case above.