The question of whom belongs to the nation is perhaps the most significant aspect of any constitution. Irish citizenship, since 2005, can be acquired at birth (jus soli), if one of the parents has Irish citizenship, or by descent (jus sanguinis), if anyone with an Irish citizen grandparent born on the island of Ireland is eligible for Irish citizenship. Those not falling within this category may acquire their citizenship through the process of naturalisation. Naturalisation is the process through which a foreign national living in Ireland may apply to become an Irish citizen. This naturalisation certificate is granted, in the ‘absolute discretion’ of the Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform once satisfied that the applicant has complied with the naturalisation conditions. Collectively, these requirements are what section 15 of the Irish Nationality & Citizenship Act 1956 refers to as the ‘conditions for naturalisation’: age; good character; reckonable residence; continuation of residence; and declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State. Criticisms of these conditions are rare, considering that Ireland is renowned for its ‘easy’ and ‘open’ naturalisation system – naturalising more immigrants than any other European county. Ireland’s naturalisation system is seen as ‘easy’ and ‘open’ because, unlike most of its European counterparts, the applicant is not required to have any knowledge about the State’s history or customs of the State, the official languages of the State can be neglected, and the applicant’s understanding of the civic structures of the State has no bearing on the granting of naturalisation. Yet, these prerequisites pose an obstacle in attaining citizenship, not least because of their ambiguity in interpretation; they lack clarity, certainty, and purpose. Whilst age, continuation of residence and, declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State are conditions which remain largely untested in the Irish courts, the latter two have remained the subject of theoretical legal complications for both the State and the naturalised/naturalising individual. They are complicated because they are incoherent, inconsistent, and uncertain. By what metric is an intention to continue residency measured? Does a mere declaration provide ample evidence of a fidelity to the nation or loyalty to the State?
In this video, we explore much of these issues and come to an understanding as to how the conditions are interpreted by the Courts. We do this by starting with the background and legislative history of citizenship law in Ireland, in order to understand the source of the naturalisation process. Following this, we discuss the process of naturalisation and the legal conditions required for the eligibility of acquiring citizenship through a certificate of naturalisation.