180. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Justice the status of a citizenship application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56449/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): The application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.
The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.
It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. However, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.
In addition, the combined impact of the 2019 High Court judgment in the Jones case and the necessary health restrictions arising from the pandemic, has resulted in the processing time for standard applications increasing.
However, my Department is taking a number of steps to speed up the processing of applications and a number of digitisation measures have also been introduced to increase efficiency in the process, including eTax clearance, eVetting and online payments. The end result of the digitisation process will be to free up more staff to focus on processing applications in a timely and efficient manner, to improve service to our customers and reduce waiting times.
This year, we are on track to deliver approximately 11,000 decisions, significantly exceeding the levels achieved in the last two years. Additional staff have also been assigned to the citizenship team. Based on these measures, my Department's objective is to achieve an improved timeframe of 6-9 months for decisions on a majority of applications during 2022.