New citizens to sign affidavit of loyalty instead of attending ceremonies, minister says

Temporary measure will help ensure applicants receive certificates as soon as possible

 Minister for Justice & Equality Helen McEntee said a virtual citizenship ceremony held in July was a success but further such events are ‘not feasible’ because of the demand.   File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Justice & Equality Helen McEntee said a virtual citizenship ceremony held in July was a success but further such events are ‘not feasible’ because of the demand. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

New Irish citizens will sign an affidavit of loyalty to the State while ceremonies are cancelled during the pandemic, the Government has announced.

Alternative methods of celebrating new citizens – rather than the usual large swearing-in gatherings - have been under consideration since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Ireland early this year.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said a virtual citizenship ceremony held in July was a success but further such events are “not feasible” because of the demand.

Citizenship ceremonies restarted in December 2019 after they were put on hold for five months over a High Court ruling last year that any person applying for Irish citizenship could not spend a day outside Ireland in the year before applying.

A 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, Mr Justice Barrett ruled.

While applications continued to be processed, ceremonies were put on hold, leaving thousands of applicants in limbo and leading to a backlog of more than 20,000 people waiting to be sworn in as Irish citizens by a judge.

Ms McEntee said the temporary measure of affidavits of loyalty would help ensure that eligible applicants receive their certificates of naturalisation as soon as possible.

“Since their establishment in 2011, citizenship ceremonies have been joyous occasions at which we mark the granting of Irish citizenships in a dignified manner,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic means that we are currently unable to hold the in-person ceremonies with hundreds of people which have become a welcome addition to our public and civic life.

“Yet thousands of applications for naturalisation are still on hand, with many applicants ready to become citizens. Our new, temporary approach means we can process these applications during the pandemic.”

More than 21,000 citizenship applications have yet to be processed including around 3,000 that are “ceremony ready”, according to the Department for Justice.