Woman is denied Irish citizenship over holiday in France

Stephanie McCorkell was refused a passport despite having lived in Ireland for 44 years

Stephanie McCorkell, a UK citizen who lives in Ireland with her Irish husband, Charles. Photograph: Alan Betson

Stephanie McCorkell, a UK citizen who lives in Ireland with her Irish husband, Charles. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Having spent the last 44 years in Ireland, where she raised five children with her Irish husband, Stephanie McCorkell thought applying for citizenship would be a mere formality.

But then the 68-year-old English woman found out that seven weeks of family camping holidays in France last year had put a stop to any chance of getting an Irish passport.

“Where there are significant absences from the State, the applicant may be refused,” a Department of Justice letter told her last month, slamming the door firmly on her aspirations.

“I felt as if I have no worth in this country,” Ms McCorkell said. “I have to tell you I was very depressed.”

As with a growing number of her fellow UK citizens, Ms McCorkell was prompted to apply for citizenship in the wake of Brexit. Before that, she said, she had always felt like a citizen of Europe.

By the middle of last December, 162,251 people had applied for Irish passports from the UK, nearly twice as many as before the British voted to leave the EU.

But unlike many of those applicants, Ms McCorkell has lived in Ireland for the majority of her life – it has long since been her home.

“I am the only one in the family that isn’t Irish. I have five children and nine grandchildren and a husband, all Irish,” she said. “I don’t want just to be classified as British any more.”

Ms McCorkell and her husband, Charles (73), met in Liverpool, where they had both been students. Charles had got a job lecturing in electronic engineering at Ulster Polytechnic in Belfast in the early 1970s and later at the institution that would become Dublin City University (DCU), where he became head of department.

Staunch European

The McCorkells settled in Dublin in 1981, where they raised their family. Their five children were born in the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“My mother’s background was the Netherlands. My grandfather was an immigrant into Britain and we always kept up a connection. So in actual fact I have always felt European,” she said.

“The way things turned in Britain and the attitude of people with the nationalism that came out was abhorrent to me.”

McCorkell family photos. Photograph: Alan Betson
McCorkell family photos. Photograph: Alan Betson

So last January, in a move she never felt overly compelled to make in her earlier life, Ms McCorkell filled out an application for citizenship and sent off the €175 fee.

Last month, however, she found out that to apply for citizenship she had to have a continuous period of a year’s residency in Ireland with a maximum exception of up to six weeks out of the country.

She and Charles, and some family members, had been camping in France for three weeks in June and for a month in September – a staple part of the McCorkell family’s lives and something Stephanie and Charles were keen to continue in their retirement.

In correspondence, the Department of Justice told Ms McCorkell her application for a certificate of naturalisation had been deemed ineligible due to the amount of time she had spent outside the country within the last year.

However, when asked about her particular circumstances and how they might apply to the citizenship process, a department spokesman said Ms McCorkell’s application would be reviewed.