Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she has any discretion in expediting citizenship applications, where the resident may not have reached the five-year minimum; and if so, the grounds on which this may take place. [18765/15]
124. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to include a portion of the time spent in Direct Provision in assessing eligibility for citizenship; and if she had no such plans, the reason for same. [18766/15]
126. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views that the five-year minimum requirement for a resident becoming a citizen is necessary, where a resident has already been in direct provision for five years, or more; and if a shorter period of two years, for example, might not be preferable. [18768/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 123, 124 and 126 together.
The granting of an application for a certificate of naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. Section 15 of the Act provides that the Minister may, in her absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must:
- be of full age;
- be of good character;
- have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years;
- intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation;
- have, before a judge of the District Court in open court, in a citizenship ceremony or in such manner as the Minister, for special reasons, allows:
- (i) made a declaration, in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State; and
(ii) undertaken to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values.
Section 16A(1) of the Act also provides that, for the purposes of calculating the period of residence in relation to an application for naturalisation, only those periods during which the applicant has the permission of the Minister to reside in the State - other than for the purposes of claiming asylum or engaging in a course of education or study - are reckonable. Accordingly, time spent in the asylum process is not reckonable for the purpose of satisfying the residency conditions for naturalisation.
There are no plans at present to amend the requirements for a certificate of naturalisation specified under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.
An Independent Working Group on the Protection Process was established in October 2014 to recommend to Government what improvements should be made to the protection process, including direct provision and supports to asylum seekers. The Working Group is due to finalise its report to Government by the end of the month and I will consider whatever recommendations are put forward by it when it completes its work.