Flanagan accepts ‘surprise’ High Court ruling on citizenship

Continuous residence decision ‘has alarmed many interested parties’, says Minister

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: promises a “clear response” to the High Court ruling. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: promises a “clear response” to the High Court ruling. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The Government is “working towards” making a decision on whether emergency legislation is needed in response to a High Court decision on citizenship applications, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said.

He was responding to a ruling this week which said the “continuous residence” requirement in citizenship applications means an applicant for naturalisation must have “unbroken” residence in the State for an entire year immediately before the date of their application.

Speaking in Helsinki, where he was attending a meeting of EU justice ministers, Mr Flanagan promised a “clear response” to the High Court ruling.

When asked if his department would be bound by the court, Mr Flanagan replied: “Of course I respect the decision of the High Court. I’ve been speaking to my officials since I arrived here last night. I believe it’s important people are reassured because many people are in an unsettled state. The judgment has alarmed many interested parties.

‘Clear response’

“I’m very concerned that, in conjunction with the Attorney General, which is my department, that we have a clear response.”

He said no decision had yet been made on whether to pass emergency legislation, but added: “We’re working towards that. I accept there is an urgency here. I accept the judgment of the High Court, albeit a surprise.”

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled the Minister for Justice’s discretionary practice of allowing applicants six weeks out of the country, for holiday or other reasons, and more time in exceptional circumstances, was not permitted by law.

That “might seem unfair” in a world where many people travel abroad for work and take foreign breaks more than once a year but it is what the relevant law requires, the judge said. The cure for any such unfairness is not to be found in the courts, it “lies in the gift of the legislature”, he added.