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19 July 2019

High Court challenges to Irish naturalisation framework


An Irish High Court ruled on 19 July 2019 that the Minister of Justice was wrong to reject a minor’s application for citizenship based on the ‘poor’ character of the child’s father. Human rights organisations welcomed the court’s decision. However, a week earlier a separate High Court decision upheld the ‘six-week rule’ that was introduced by the Department of Justice two years ago, requiring that applicants for citizenship not leave Ireland for longer than a total of six weeks during the year prior to their application.

Many legal professionals deemed the six-week rule to be potentially unconstitutional and expected it to be challenged. However, in this latest decision the judge not only rejected the challenge but ruled that the law does not permit citizenship applicants to leave Ireland for even one day during the year before submitting their application, which naturally makes it even more difficult for people to gain Irish citizenship.

The Department of Justice issued a public statement of concern as to the impact of this decision, which has been met with a negative reaction online. People wishing to apply for citizenship and those with pending applications were instructed not to cancel any planned trips, as the Department is taking steps to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.

The two High Court cases once again demonstrate the need to reform the legal framework for citizenship. Access to citizenship has been an issue in many High Court challenges throughout the years. The discretionary nature and lack of clear criteria for granting citizenship mean that there are many inconsistencies and arbitrary decisions in the evaluation of citizenship applications. Academics and researchers have provided evidence that this has a negative impact on the integration prospects of migrants living in Ireland, with many living in limbo.

There have been some improvements in the naturalisation process, such as reducing waiting times that historically could take up to four years.  The importance of naturalisation for migrants’ integration was also recognised with the introduction of citizenship ceremonies in 2011. Both the President of Ireland and the Irish Government encourage migrants to become Irish citizens by celebrating new citizens and offering welcoming statements

Read more about the case regarding the minor’s application for citizenship

Read more about the decision on the six-week rule


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Posted by
Teresa Buczkowska
Country Coordinator

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