The High Court’s Mr. Justice Max Barrett ruled yesterday that nobody seeking citizenship can be granted it if they have spent even one day outside of the country over the past year. This outrageous ruling could affect thousands of people who are currently applying for citizenship in Ireland. The ruling is based on an absurd interpretation of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1956 which includes one year of “continuous residence” in the run up to the granting of citizenship.
This effectively means that people will be denied the opportunity to leave the country for work, for a holiday, or even to visit sick or dying relatives and friends abroad. Under this ruling, people would even be prohibited from travelling to Belfast for a day trip without risking missing out on citizenship. Immigration lawyer Aoife Gillespie yesterday tweeted that, “It is absurd to require a person to be detained within the State for an entire year in order to qualify for Irish citizenship.”
This is an appalling way to deal with people who are demonstrating they wish to be citizens of this country. It is worth noting that Mr. Justice Barrett was previously a corporate lawyer who served as Head of Legal at National Irish Bank in 2007 and went on to be Head of Legal at Anglo Irish Bank in 2010. In this role he would have looked after foreign bondholders and vulture funds, aiding the free movement of massive amounts of wealth around the world. Now in his role as a Judge he is concerned with restricting the movements of human beings.
This ruling comes as a shock to many people and will certainly be appealed, but it must be said that this is only one aspect of Ireland’s highly restrictive immigration and citizenship policies. Since the 2004 Citizenship Referendum, people born in Ireland to non-Irish parents do not have an automatic right to citizenship. Thousands of asylum seekers are still kept in Direct Provision centres which have been described as modern day Magdalene Laundries. Many of these asylum seekers are deported back to unsafe countries after years of detention.
People Before Profit support calls for an immediate reversal of yesterday’s ruling. We will also continue to campaign to reverse the 2004 Citizenship Referendum result, to end the Direct Provision system, and to fight for the free movement of people.