‘Unbroken residence’ decision to be ruled on by Court of Appeal

Applicants for Irish citizenship must have residence here in the year before they apply

The Court of Appeal will rule on an appeal concerning a controversial High Court finding that applicants for Irish citizenship must have “unbroken” residence here in the year before they apply on Thursday.

The Court of Appeal will rule on an appeal concerning a controversial High Court finding that applicants for Irish citizenship must have “unbroken” residence here in the year before they apply on Thursday.

 

The Court of Appeal will rule on an appeal concerning a controversial High Court finding that applicants for Irish citizenship must have “unbroken” residence here in the year before they apply on Thursday.

The High Court decision has caused huge uncertainty in relation to citizenship applications.

During the appeal last month, lawyers for the Minister for Justice urged the three judge court to overturn last May’s finding by Mr Justice Max Barrett that the relevant law means citizenship applicants must have “unbroken” residence here in the year prior to their application.

The appeal was given a priority hearing by the COA because of the uncertainty and judgment will be given on Thursday.

The appeal is by Roderick Jones, an Australian man working in the university sector here, over being refused citizenship by the Minister in 2018 due to being out of the country for 100 days – 97 on holiday and three for work reasons – in the year before he applied.

The Minister wants the COA to uphold that refusal but not on the basis of the High Court view that the words “continuous residence” in section 15.1.c of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2015 mean an applicant for citizenship must have “unbroken” residence in the State for a year before they apply.

Discretionary practice

Mr Justice Barrett said the Minister’s discretionary practice of allowing applicants six weeks out of the country, for holiday or other reasons, and more time in exceptional circumstances, is not permitted by section 15.1.

In the appeal, lawyers for Mr Jones and the Minister both argued the High Court erred in how it interpreted “continuous residence” but disagreed on other aspects of the High Court decision.

Feichín McDonagh SC, for Mr Jones, argued the Minister was not entitled to apply a “quantitative six week bed night test” rather than a “qualitative” test to the concept of continuous residence.

Mr Jones has been living and working here for years but comes from Australia, will always want to visit his family and, because of his work, will also be asked to travel abroad, he said.

Demonstrate intent

He argued the Act requires applicants to demonstrate intent to continue to reside in the State after they get citizenship and does not require they commit not to spend more than six weeks out of the State in the year before they apply.

Sara Moorhead SC, for the Minister, said neither party had argued for the “very restrictive” interpretation of the words “continuous residence” made by the High Court judge and that should be set aside.

She said the High Court wrongly equated “residence” with “presence”, did not assess residence at all and the decision appeared to mean an applicant could not leave the State for an hour in the relevant year.

The Minister wanted a more “realistic”, “reasonable”and “rational” interpretation of “continuous residence”, she said.

Other than that particular finding, the COA should uphold the “reasonable” refusal of Mr Jones’ application, she argued.