805. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice if each Dublin local authority is permitted to host and facilitate future citizenship ceremonies in conjunction with her Department for residents of their respective administrative area that are due to receive Irish citizenship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16819/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Citizenship ceremonies fulfil two purposes, firstly as a celebration of the end of the citizenship journey; and secondly to complete some necessary security checks, including spot checks of the identity documents of applicants to maintain the integrity of the naturalisation process.
These identity checks require access to individual application files and specialist software. Staff in the Citizenship Division of the Immigration Service of my Department are trained in this regard and are supported by An Garda Síochána as required. Moving to a distributed ceremonies format would require Citizenship staff having to attend at various events across the country and would likely result in a loss of productivity to the detriment of applicants.
A number of County Councils have previously requested and supported smaller ceremonies taking place within their administrative areas. Most recently, Waterford City hosted a ceremony in 2019, to mark the first flying of the tricolour in Waterford City in 1848. Further details of that ceremony can be found on our website at: http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/press-release-650-new-irish-citizens-receive-their-certificates-of-naturalisation-in-Waterford.
Citizenship processes are currently undergoing review in my Department. Any proposal to co-host citizenship ceremonies with a local authority will be considered as part of this process.
Currently, the Covid 19 pandemic has prevented the holding of in-person ceremonies, however it remains my intention that large scale ceremonies will recommence once circumstances allow. Since their establishment in 2011, citizenship ceremonies have been joyous occasions which mark the granting of Irish citizenships in a dignified manner and they have become a welcome addition to our public and civic life. In-person ceremonies have been provisionally scheduled to resume in December 2021, subject to the safety of all involved being assured.
On 18 January 2021, I was pleased to announce a temporary system that enables citizenship applicants to complete their naturalisation process by signing a statutory declaration of loyalty.
This signed statutory declaration replaces the requirement for citizenship applicants to attend citizenship ceremonies, which have been temporarily suspended during COVID-19. The Citizenship Division of my Department is communicating with applicants regarding the requirements, on a phased basis.
Under the temporary new system, up to 4,000 qualifying applicants are currently being asked to complete a statutory declaration that is sent to them by email from the Citizenship Division of the Immigration Service of my Department and bring it to one of the listed designated officials. The designated official must witness the applicant sign the statutory declaration. The applicant must then send the signed statutory declaration, the appropriate fee and any other requested documentation to Citizenship Division. Final processing will then take place and a certificate of naturalisation, will be sent to the applicant.
My Department expects to continue the current statutory declaration process beyond March and we are aiming to have communicated with an additional 2,500 applicants in the system by the end of June.
To date, 3,615 communications have issued and 1,605 declarations had been returned and 887 certificates of naturalisation have already issued and more will issue in the coming weeks once the final processing of the returned declarations is completed.