State can look at North citizenship only after Brexit decisions

SF appeals to Government to change law for long-term non-Irish residents

Niall Ó Donnghaile has expressed concern about the status of ethnic minorities and non-EU citizens resident in the North.

Niall Ó Donnghaile has expressed concern about the status of ethnic minorities and non-EU citizens resident in the North.

 

The granting of Irish citizenship to ethnic minorities living in the North cannot be considered until the final arrangements for Brexit are known, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said.

He told Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile that “we do not plan to change the current position” on citizenship laws “in advance of knowing”.

Mr Ó Donnghaile had expressed concern about the status of ethnic minorities and non-EU citizens resident in the North.

“As a result of Brexit the uncertainty around their status is particularly pronounced and it adds pressure to a section of society that is already vulnerable as a result of their status,” he said.

The Belfast-based Senator said ethnic minority communities and non-EU citizens resident in the North “may have children who were born here and who qualify for Irish citizenship” as they identified as Irish and new Irish.

“Their children may be in Gaelscoileanna or playing for their local GAA clubs. Brexit has added much concern, fear and uncertainty for them.”

Communities in the North such as the Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern communities “have reared families, opened businesses and contributed to life, helping in their own way to build the peace and reconciliation process”.

Mr Ó Donnghaile said a number of organisations representing ethnic communities in the North had come together and were requesting a meeting with the Minister.

They are seeking an amendment to the 2004 Nationality and Citizenship Act and if the Government amended the act it would be “very important and symbolic” and supportive of the North’s ethnic communities.

The Minister said the citizenship legislation distinguished between the entitlement to Irish citizenship by birth and descent and to the acquisition through the process of naturalisation.

Mr Flanagan stressed that the question of citizenship “remains very much a national competency and there are no current plans to change the legislation”.

But he pledged to revisit the matter if related issues arose during the Brexit negotiations.