Irish nationality law
Overview
 
Irish nationality law is the law of the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 governing citizenship. A person may be an Irish citizen through birth, descent, marriage to an Irish citizen or through naturalisation
Naturalization
Naturalization is the acquisition of citizenship and nationality by somebody who was not a citizen of that country at the time of birth....

. Irish nationality law is currently contained in the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956 to 2004 and in the relevant provisions of the Irish Constitution
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

. The law extends to the whole of the island of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, including Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

.
A person born on the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005:
  • is automatically an Irish citizen if he or she is not entitled to the citizenship of any other country; or
  • is entitled to be an Irish citizen if at least one of his or her parents is:
    • an Irish citizen (or someone entitled to be an Irish citizen);
    • a British citizen;
    • a resident of the island of Ireland who is entitled to reside in either the Republic or in Northern Ireland without any time limit on that residence; or
    • a legal resident of the island of Ireland for three out of the 4 years preceding the child's birth (although time spent as a student or as an asylum seeker does not count for this purpose).

A person who is entitled to become an Irish citizen becomes an Irish citizen if:
  • he or she does any act that only Irish citizens are entitled to do; or
  • any act that only Irish citizens are entitled to do is done on his of her behalf by a person entitled to do so.

Ireland previously had a much less diluted application of jus soli
Jus soli
Jus soli , also known as birthright citizenship, is a right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognized to any individual born in the territory of the related state...

(the right to citizenship of the country of birth) which still applies to anyone born on or before the 31 December 2004.
Although passed in 2001, the applicable law was deemed enacted on 2 December 1999 and provided that anyone born on the island of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 is:
  • entitled to be an Irish citizen and,
  • automatically an Irish citizen if he or she was not entitled to the citizenship of any other country.


The previous legislation was largely replaced by the 1999 changes, which were retrospective in effect.
Encyclopedia
Irish nationality law is the law of the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 governing citizenship. A person may be an Irish citizen through birth, descent, marriage to an Irish citizen or through naturalisation
Naturalization
Naturalization is the acquisition of citizenship and nationality by somebody who was not a citizen of that country at the time of birth....

. Irish nationality law is currently contained in the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956 to 2004 and in the relevant provisions of the Irish Constitution
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

. The law extends to the whole of the island of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, including Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

.

At birth

A person born on the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005:
  • is automatically an Irish citizen if he or she is not entitled to the citizenship of any other country; or
  • is entitled to be an Irish citizen if at least one of his or her parents is:
    • an Irish citizen (or someone entitled to be an Irish citizen);
    • a British citizen;
    • a resident of the island of Ireland who is entitled to reside in either the Republic or in Northern Ireland without any time limit on that residence; or
    • a legal resident of the island of Ireland for three out of the 4 years preceding the child's birth (although time spent as a student or as an asylum seeker does not count for this purpose).

A person who is entitled to become an Irish citizen becomes an Irish citizen if:
  • he or she does any act that only Irish citizens are entitled to do; or
  • any act that only Irish citizens are entitled to do is done on his of her behalf by a person entitled to do so.

Prior to 2005

Ireland previously had a much less diluted application of jus soli
Jus soli
Jus soli , also known as birthright citizenship, is a right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognized to any individual born in the territory of the related state...

(the right to citizenship of the country of birth) which still applies to anyone born on or before the 31 December 2004.
Although passed in 2001, the applicable law was deemed enacted on 2 December 1999 and provided that anyone born on the island of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 is:
  • entitled to be an Irish citizen and,
  • automatically an Irish citizen if he or she was not entitled to the citizenship of any other country.

Historical provisions

The previous legislation was largely replaced by the 1999 changes, which were retrospective in effect. Before the 2 December 1999, the distinction between Irish citizenship and entitlement to Irish citizenship rested on the place of birth. Under this regime, any person born on the island of Ireland was:
  • automatically an Irish citizen if born:
    • on the island of Ireland
      Ireland
      Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

       before 6 December 1922,
    • in the territory which currently comprises the Republic of Ireland
      Republic of Ireland
      Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

      , or
    • in Northern Ireland
      Northern Ireland
      Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

       on or after 6 December 1922 with a parent who was an Irish citizen at the time of birth;
  • entitled to be an Irish citizen if born in Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

     and not automatically an Irish citizen.

The provisions of the 1956 Act were, in terms of citizenship by birth, retrospective and replaced the provisions of the previous legislation, the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1935. Under that legislation, those born in Northern Ireland on or after 6 December 1922 did not have an entitlement to Irish citizenship by birth.
Children of diplomats

Like most countries, Ireland does not normally grant citizenship to the children of diplomats. This does not apply, however, when a diplomat parents a child with an Irish citizen, a British citizen or a permanent resident. In 2001, Ireland enacted a measure which allowed the children of diplomats to register as Irish citizens if they chose to do so; however this was repealed three years later. The option to register remains for those born to diplomats before 2005.

By descent

A person is an Irish citizen by descent if, at the time of his or her birth, at least one of his or her parents was an Irish citizen. In cases where at least one parent was an Irish citizen born in the island of Ireland or an Irish citizen resident abroad in the public service, citizenship is automatic and dates from birth. In all other cases citizenship is subject to registration in the Foreign Births Register
Foreign Births Entry Book
The Foreign Births Register is an official register of foreign births with Irish citizenship that is kept by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin...

.

Due to legislative changes introduced in 1986, the Irish citizenship of those individuals requiring registration, dates from registration and not from birth, for births registered on or after 1 January 1987. Citizenship by registration had previously been back-dated to birth.

In practice, anyone with an Irish citizen grandparent born in the island of Ireland, can easily claim Irish citizenship. His or her parent would have automatically been an Irish citizen and their own citizenship can be secured by registering themselves as in the Foreign Births Register. In contrast, those wishing to claim citizenship through an Irish citizen great-grandparent may be easily frustrated if their parents were not registered in the Foreign Births Register. Their parents can only transmit Irish citizenship to children born after they themselves were registered and not to any children born before registration.

Citizenship acquired through descent may be maintained indefinitely so long as each generation ensures its registration before the birth of the next.

By adoption

All adoptions performed or recognised under Irish law confer Irish citizenship on the adopted child (if not already an Irish citizen) if at least one of the adopters was an Irish citizen at the time of the adoption.

By marriage

As of 30 November 2005, citizenship must be acquired through the normal naturalisation process. The residence requirement is reduced from 5 to 3 years for the spouse of an Irish citizen.

Previously, the law allowed for the spouses of most Irish citizens to acquire citizenship post-nuptially by registration without residence in the island of Ireland, or by naturalisation.
  • From 17 July 1956 to 31 December 1986, the wife (but not the husband) of an Irish citizen (other than by naturalisation) could apply for post-nuptial Citizenship. A woman who applied for this before marriage would become an Irish citizen upon marriage. This was a retrospective provision which could be applied to marriages made before 1956. However the citizenship granted was prospective only.

  • Between 1 July 1986 and 29 November 2005, the spouse of an Irish citizen (other than by naturalisation, honorary citizenship or a previous marriage) could obtain post-nuptial Citizenship after 3 years of subsisting marriage, provided the Irish spouse had held that status for at least 3 years. Like the provisions it replaced, the application of this regime was also retrospective.

By civil partnership

As of 2 August 2011, same-sex civil partners are treated in the same way as married individuals and may apply for naturalisation after the same abridged period of residence of three years. The definition of civil partners include legal unions in other countries which offer similar (or greater) legal rights and responsibilities, and accordingly the required year of co-habitation can have accrued before the Civil Partnership Act.

By naturalisation

The naturalisation to a foreigner as an Irish citizen is a discretionary power held by the Irish Minister for Justice. Naturalisation is granted on a number of criteria including good character, residence in the state and intention to continue residing in the state.

In principle the residence requirement is three years if married to or in a civil partnership with an Irish citizen, and five years otherwise. For the latter category, residence must be in the Republic of Ireland, while for the former, residence in Northern Ireland can also count. However, not all time spent in the Republic or in Northern Ireland will count for the purposes of naturalisation. Time spent seeking asylum will not be counted. Nor will time spent as an illegal immigrant. Time spent studying in the state by a national of a non-EEA
European Economic Area
The European Economic Area was established on 1 January 1994 following an agreement between the member states of the European Free Trade Association and the European Community, later the European Union . Specifically, it allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to participate in the EU's Internal...

 state (i.e. a state other than European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 Member States, Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

) will not count.

The Minister for Justice may waive the residency requirement for:
  • the children of naturalised citizens;
  • recognised refugees;
  • stateless children;
  • those resident abroad in the service of the Irish state; and
  • people of "Irish descent or Irish associations".

By grant of honorary citizenship

Section 12 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 allows the President, on advice
Advice (constitutional)
Advice, in constitutional law, is formal, usually binding, instruction given by one constitutional officer of state to another. Especially in parliamentary systems of government, Heads of state often act on the basis of advice issued by prime ministers or other government ministers...

 of the Government, to:
" ... grant Irish citizenship as a token of honour to a person, or the child or grandchild of a person who, in the opinion of the Government, has done signal honour or rendered distinguished service to the nation."


Although known as "honorary Irish citizenship," this is in fact legally a full form of citizenship, with entitlement to an Irish passport and the other rights of Irish citizenship on the same basis as a naturalised Irish citizen.

Among those who have had honorary Irish citizenship conferred on them are:
  • Jack Charlton
    Jack Charlton
    John "Jack" Charlton, OBE, DL is a former footballer and manager who played for Leeds United in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and was part of the England team who won the 1966 World Cup...

     (and his wife) – for his achievements as manager of the Republic of Ireland national football team
    Republic of Ireland national football team
    The Republic of Ireland national football team represents Ireland in association football. It is run by the Football Association of Ireland and currently plays home fixtures at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, which opened in May 2010....

    ;
  • Alfred Chester Beatty
    Alfred Chester Beatty
    Sir Alfred Chester Beatty Seanad 1985: "Chester Beatty died at the Princess Grace Clinic, Monte Carlo, on 19 January 1968, [...]" . was a mining magnate and millionaire, often called the "King of Copper". U.S.-born, he was naturalised British in 1933, and made an honorary citizen of Ireland in 1957...

     (1957) – art collector, philanthropist and founder of the Chester Beatty Library
    Chester Beatty Library
    The Chester Beatty Library was established in Dublin, Ireland in 1950, to house the collections of mining magnate, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. The present library, on the grounds of Dublin Castle, opened on February 7, 2000, the 125th anniversary of Sir Alfred's birth and was named European Museum...

    ;
  • Alfred Beit (1993) (and his wife) – art collector and owner of Russborough House
    Russborough House
    Russborough House is a stately house situated near the Blessington Lakes in County Wicklow, Ireland, between the towns of Blessington and Ballymore Eustace and is reputed to be the longest house in Ireland, with a frontage measuring 210 m/700 ft...

    ;
  • Tiede Herrema
    Tiede Herrema
    Dr Tiede Herrema is a Dutch businessman.In the 1970s, Herrema ran a wire factory, Ferenka, in the city of Limerick, Ireland. At the time, he was the city's biggest employer, with approximately 1,400 workers. On 3 October 1975 he was abducted near his home by two members of the Provisional Irish...

     (1975) (and his wife) – Dutch
    Netherlands
    The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

     businessman kidnapped by the Provisional IRA;
  • Derek Hill (1999) – artist who discovered the Tory Island
    Tory Island
    Toraigh is an inhabited island 14.5 km off the northwest coast of County Donegal, Ireland. It is also known in Irish as Oileán Thoraigh, Oileán Thoraí or Oileán Thúr Rí.-Language:The main spoken language on the island is Irish, but English is also understood...

     school of painting;
  • Tip O'Neill
    Tip O'Neill
    Thomas Phillip "Tip" O'Neill, Jr. was an American politician. O'Neill was an outspoken liberal Democrat and influential member of the U.S. Congress, serving in the House of Representatives for 34 years and representing two congressional districts in Massachusetts...

     (and his wife) – Irish-American and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
    Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
    The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, or Speaker of the House, is the presiding officer of the United States House of Representatives...

    ; and
  • Jean Kennedy Smith
    Jean Kennedy Smith
    Jean Ann Kennedy Smith is an American diplomat and a former United States Ambassador to Ireland. She is the eighth of nine children born to Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald and is their last surviving child. She is the sister of the 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy,...

     (1998) – former United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

     ambassador to Ireland.


Plans were made to grant honorary Irish citizenship to U.S. president John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 during his visit to Ireland in 1963 but this was abandoned owing to legal difficulties in granting citizenship to a foreign head of state.

By renunciation

An Irish citizen may renounce his or her citizenship if she or he is:
  • eighteen years or older;
  • ordinarily resident abroad; and
  • is, or is about to become, a citizen of another country.


Renouncing Irish citizenship is done by lodging a declaration with the Minister for Justice. If the person is not already a citizen of another country the renunciation is only effective when he or she becomes such. Irish citizenship cannot be lost by the operation of the law of another country.

An Irish citizen born on the island of Ireland who renounces Irish citizenship remains entitled to be an Irish citizen and may resume it upon declaration.

While not positively stated in the Act, the possibility of renouncing Irish citizenship is provided for to allow Irish citizens to be naturalised as citizens of foreign countries whose laws do not allow multiple citizenship
Multiple citizenship
Multiple citizenship is a status in which a person is concurrently regarded as a citizen under the laws of more than one state. Multiple citizenships exist because different countries use different, and not necessarily mutually exclusive, citizenship requirements...

. While naturalised citizens may have their naturalisation certificates revoked if they gain the citizenship of another country, there is no provision requiring them to renounce any citizenship they previously held. Nor is there any provision of Irish law requiring citizens (other than by naturalisation) to renounce their Irish citizenship before becoming citizens of other countries.

By revocation of a certificate of naturalisation

A certificate of naturalisation may be revoked by the Minister for Justice. Once revoked the person to whom the certificate applies ceases to be an Irish citizen. Revocation is not automatic and is a discretionary power of the Minister. A certificate may be revoked if it was obtained by fraud or when the naturalised citizen to whom it applies:
  • resides outside the Republic of Ireland (or outside the island of Ireland in respect to naturalised spouses of Irish citizens) for a period exceeding seven years, otherwise than in the public service, without registering annually his or her intention to retain Irish citizenship, (this provision does not apply to those who were naturalised owing to their "Irish descent or Irish associations");
  • voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country (other than by marriage); or
  • "has, by any overt act
    Overt Act
    In criminal law, an overt act , an open act, one that can be clearly proved by evidence, and from which criminal intent can be inferred, as opposed to a mere intention in the mind to commit a crime...

    , shown himself to have failed in his duty of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State".


A notice of the revocation of a certificate of naturalisation must be published in Iris Oifigiúil
Iris Oifigiúil
Iris Oifigiúil replaced the former Dublin Gazette on 31 January 1922 as the official newspaper of record of the Irish Free State, the state which has since become known as Ireland....

(the official gazette
Gazette
A gazette is a public journal, a newspaper of record, or simply a newspaper.In English- and French-speaking countries, newspaper publishers have applied the name Gazette since the 17th century; today, numerous weekly and daily newspapers bear the name The Gazette.Gazette is a loanword from the...

 of the Republic) and in the period from January 2002 to April 2005 no such notices were published.

Passports

Irish passports use the standard EU
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 design, with a machine-readable identity page and 32, 48 or 64 visa
Visa (document)
A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which it was issued, subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry. The authorization may be a document, but more commonly it is a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport...

 pages. The identity page on older Irish passports was on the back cover of the booklet. Newly-issued passports have been redesigned with additional security features. The identity page is now a plastic card attached between the front cover and the first visa page. The cover bears the harp, the national symbol of Ireland, along with the words "European Union" and "Ireland" in English and Irish.

The Irish Free State Constitution

Irish citizenship originates from Article 3 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State
Constitution of the Irish Free State
The Constitution of the Irish Free State was the first constitution of the independent Irish state. It was enacted with the adoption of the Constitution of the Irish Free State Act 1922, of which it formed a part...

 which came into force on 6 December 1922, however Irish citizenship only applied domestically until the enactment of the Twenty-sixth Amendment on 5 April 1935 which applied it internationally. Any person domicile
Domicile (law)
In law, domicile is the status or attribution of being a permanent resident in a particular jurisdiction. A person can remain domiciled in a jurisdiction even after they have left it, if they have maintained sufficient links with that jurisdiction or have not displayed an intention to leave...

d in the island of Ireland on 6 December 1922 was an Irish citizen if:
  • he or she was in the island of Ireland;
  • at least one of his or her parents was born in the island of Ireland; or
  • he or she had been ordinarily resident in the island of Ireland for at least seven years;

except that "any such person being a citizen of another State" could "[choose] not to accept" Irish citizenship. (The Article also stated that "the conditions governing the future acquisition and termination of citizenship in the Irish Free State [...] shall be determined by law".)

While the Constitution referred to those domiciled "in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State" was interpreted as meaning the entire island. This was because the Constitution was formally governed by the terms of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

, which stated that "the powers of the Parliament and government of the Irish Free State shall not be exercisable as respects Northern Ireland" before 6 January 1923, unless in that time both the two Houses of the Parliament of Northern Ireland
Parliament of Northern Ireland
The Parliament of Northern Ireland was the home rule legislature of Northern Ireland, created under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which sat from 7 June 1921 to 30 March 1972, when it was suspended...

 had exercised a right to present an address to the King
British monarchy
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 that "the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland". The two Houses exercised that right within two days of the Constitution coming into force on 6 December 1922. As a result of this background, it was held by the Irish Free State's courts that Northern Ireland had been "within the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State" on 6 December 1922.

The status of the Irish Free State as a dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

 within the British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 was seen by the British authorities as meaning that a "citizen of the Irish Free State" was merely a member of the wider category of "British subject"; this interpretation could be supported by the wording of Article 3 of the Constitution, which stated that the privileges and obligations of Irish citizenship applied "within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State". However, the Irish authorities repeatedly rejected the idea that its citizens had the additional status of "British subject". Also, while the Oath of Allegiance
Oath of Allegiance (Ireland)
The Irish Oath of Allegiance was a controversial provision in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which Irish TDs and Senators were required to take, in order to take their seats in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann .-Text of the Oath:The Oath was included in Article 17 of the Irish Free State's 1922...

 for members of the Oireachtas
Oireachtas of the Irish Free State
The Oireachtas of the Irish Free State was the legislature of the Irish Free State from 1922 until 1937. It was established by the 1922 Constitution of Ireland which was based from the Anglo-Irish Treaty...

, as set out in Article 17 of the Constitution, and as required by Art. 4 of the Treaty, referred to "the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain", a 1929 memorandum on nationality and citizenship prepared by the Department of Justice at the request of the Department of External Affairs for the Conference on the Operation of Dominion Legislation stated:
"The reference to 'common citizenship' in the Oath means little or nothing. 'Citizenship' is not a term of English law at all. There is not, in fact, 'common citizenship' throughout the British Commonwealth: the Indian 'citizen' is treated by the Australian 'citizen' as an undesirable alien."

Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1935

The 1922 Constitution only provided for citizenship for those alive on 6 December 1922. No provision was made for those born after this date. As such it was a temporary provision which required the enactment of a fully-fledged citizenship law which by done by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1935. This Act provided for, among other things:
  • Irish citizenship by birth for anyone born within the Irish Free State
    Irish Free State
    The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

     on or after 6 December 1922;
  • Irish citizenship by descent for anyone whose father was an Irish citizen at the time of his or her birth, provided such birth was registered in register of Northern-Ireland- or foreign births;
  • a naturalisation procedure; and
  • automatic denaturalisation for anyone who became a citizen of another country on or after reaching 21 years of age.

The provision of citizenship by descent had the effect, given the interpretation noted above, of providing citizenship for those in Northern Ireland born after 6 December 1922 so long as their father had been resident anywhere in Ireland on said date. However, this automatic entitlement was limited to the first generation, with the citizenship of subsequent generations requiring registration and the surrendering of any other citizenship held at the age of 21. The combination of the principles of birth and descent in the Act respected the state’s territorial boundary, with residents of Northern Ireland treated “in an identical manner to persons of Irish birth or descent who resided in Britain or a foreign country”. According to Brian Ó Caoindealbháin, the 1935 Act was, therefore, compatible with the state’s existing borders, respecting and, in effect, reinforcing them.

The Act also provided for the establishment of the Foreign Births Register.

Further, the 1935 Act was an attempt to assert the sovereignty of the Free State and the distinct nature of Irish citizenship, and to end the ambiguity over the relations between Irish citizenship and British subject status. Nonetheless, London continued to recognise Irish citizens as British subjects until the passing of the Ireland Act 1949, which recognised, as a distinct class of persons, “citizens of the Republic of Ireland”

The 1937 Constitution

The 1937 Constitution of Ireland
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

 simply maintained the previous citizenship body, also providing, as the previous constitution had done, that the further acquisition and loss of Irish citizenship was to be regulated by law.

With regard to Northern Ireland, despite the irredentist nature and rhetorical claims of articles 2 and 3 of the new constitution, the compatibility of Irish citizenship law with the state’s boundaries remained unaltered.

Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956

In 1956, the Irish parliament
Oireachtas
The Oireachtas , sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature of Ireland. The Oireachtas consists of:*The President of Ireland*The two Houses of the Oireachtas :**Dáil Éireann...

 enacted the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956. This Act repealed the 1935 Act and remains, although heavily amended, the basis of Irish citizenship law. This act, according to Ó Caoindealbháin, altered radically the treatment of Northern Ireland residents in Irish citizenship law. With the enactment of the Republic of Ireland Act
Republic of Ireland Act
The Republic of Ireland Act 1948 is an Act of the Oireachtas which declared the Irish state to be a republic, and vested in the President of Ireland the power to exercise the executive authority of the state in its external relations, on the advice of the Government of Ireland...

 in 1948, and the subsequent passage of the Ireland Act by the British government in 1949, the state’s constitutional independence was assured, facilitating the resolution of the unsatisfactory position from an Irish nationalist perspective whereby births in Northern Ireland were assimilated to “foreign” births. The Irish government was explicit in its aim to amend this situation, seeking to extend citizenship as widely as possible to Northern Ireland, as well as to Irish emigrants and their descendents abroad.

The Act therefore provided for Irish citizenship for anyone born in the island of Ireland whether before or after independence. The only limitations to which were that anyone born in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 was not automatically an Irish citizen but entitled to be an Irish citizen and, that a child of someone entitled to diplomatic immunity in the state would not become an Irish citizen. The Act also provided for open-ended citizenship by descent and for citizenship by registration for the wives (but not husbands) of Irish citizens.

The treatment of Northern Ireland residents in these sections had considerable significance for the state’s territorial boundaries, given that their “sensational effect … was to confer, in the eyes of Irish law, citizenship on the vast majority of the Northern Ireland population”. The compatibility
of this innovation with international law, according to Ó Caoindealbháin was dubious, "given its attempt to
regulate the citizenship of an external territory ... In seeking to extend jus soli citizenship beyond the state’s jurisdiction, the 1956 Act openly sought to subvert the territorial boundary between North and South". The implications of the Act were readily recognised in Northern Ireland, with Lord Brookeborough tabling a motion in the Parliament of Northern Ireland
Parliament of Northern Ireland
The Parliament of Northern Ireland was the home rule legislature of Northern Ireland, created under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which sat from 7 June 1921 to 30 March 1972, when it was suspended...

 repudiating “the gratuitous attempt … to inflict unwanted Irish Republican nationality upon the people of Northern Ireland”.

Nevertheless, Irish citizenship continued to be extended to the inhabitants of Northern Ireland for over 40 years, representing, according to Ó Caoindealbháin, "one of the few practical expressions of the Irish state’s irredentism." Ó Caoindealbháin concludes, however, that the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 altered significantly the territorial implications of Irish citizenship law, if somewhat ambiguously, via two key provisions: the renunciation of the constitutional territorial claim over Northern Ireland, and the recognition of “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted
as Irish or British or both, as they may so choose”, and that “their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments".

In regard to international law, Ó Caoindealbháin states that, although it is the attempt to confer citizenship extra-territorially without the agreement of the state affected that represents a breach of international law (not the actual extension), the 1956 Act "co-exists uneasily with the terms of the Agreement, and, by extension, the official acceptance by the Irish state of the current border. While the Agreement recognises that Irish citizenship is the birthright of those born in Northern Ireland, it makes clear that its acceptance is a matter of individual choice. In contrast, the 1956 Act continues to extend citizenship automatically in the majority of cases, thereby, in legal effect, conflicting with the agreed status of the border and the principle of consent".

Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1986 and 1994

In 1986, the 1956 Act was amended by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1986. This Act was primarily concerned with removing various gender discriminatory provisions from the 1956 legislation and thus provided for citizenship by registration for the wives and husbands of Irish citizens.

The Act also restricted the open-ended citizenship by descent granted by the 1956 Act by dating the citizenship of third, fourth and subsequent generations of Irish emigrants born abroad, from registration and not from birth. This ended the rights of fourth and subsequent generations to citizenship to those whose parents had been registered before their birth. The Act provided for a six-month transitional period during which the old rules would still apply. Such was the increase in volume of applications for registration from third, fourth and further generation Irish emigrants, the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1994 was enacted to deal with those individuals who applied for registration within the six-month period but who could not be registered in time.

Jus soli and the Irish Constitution

Up until the late 1990s, jus soli
Jus soli
Jus soli , also known as birthright citizenship, is a right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognized to any individual born in the territory of the related state...

, in the Republic, was maintained as a matter of statute law, the only people being constitutionally entitled to citizenship of the Irish state post-1937 were those who had been citizens of the Irish Free State before its dissolution. However, in 1998 as part of the new constitutional settlement brought about by the Belfast Agreement
Belfast Agreement
The Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement , sometimes called the Stormont Agreement, was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process...

, the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
The Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland introduced changes to Articles 2 and 3 of the constitution required by the 1998 Belfast Agreement . Prior to 1999, Articles 2 and 3 made the controversial claim that the whole island of Ireland formed one single "national territory"...

 provided (among other things) that:
"It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland."


The introduction of this guarantee resulted in the enshrinement of jus soli as a constitutional right for the first time. In contrast the only people entitled to British citizenship as a result of the Belfast Agreement are people born in Northern Ireland to Irish citizens, British citizens and permanent residents.

If immigration was not on the political agenda in 1998, it did not take long to become so afterwards. Indeed soon after the agreement, the already rising strength of the Irish economy reversed the historic pattern of emigration to one of immigration, a reversal which in turn resulted in a large number of foreign nationals claiming a right to remain in the state based on their Irish-born citizen children. They did so on the basis of a 1989 Supreme Court
Supreme Court (Ireland)
The Supreme Court of Ireland is the highest judicial authority in the Republic of Ireland. It is a court of final appeal and exercises, in conjunction with the High Court, judicial review over Acts of the Oireachtas . The Court also has jurisdiction to ensure compliance with the Constitution of...

 ruling Fajujonu v. Minister for Justice where the court prohibited the deportation of the foreign parents of an Irish citizen. In January 2003 the Supreme Court distinguished the earlier decision and ruled that it was constitutional for the Government to deport the parents of children who were Irish citizens. This latter decision would have been thought to put the matter to rest but concerns remained about the propriety of the (albeit indirect) deportation of Irish citizens and what was perceived as the overly generous provisions of Irish nationality law.

In March 2004 the government introduced the draft Bill for the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
The Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland provided that children born on the island of Ireland to parents who were both non-nationals would no longer have a constitutional right to citizenship of the Republic of Ireland...

 to remedy what the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, described as an "abuse of citizenship" whereby citizenship was "conferred on persons with no tangible link to the nation or the State whether of parentage, upbringing or of long-term residence in the State". The Amendment did not propose to change the wording of Articles 2 and 3
Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland
Article 2 and Article 3 of the Constitution of Ireland were adopted with the constitution as a whole on 29 December 1937, but completely revised by means of the Nineteenth Amendment which took effect on 2 December 1999...

 as introduced by the Nineteenth Amendment, but instead to insert a clause clawing back the power to determine the future acquisition and loss of Irish citizenship by statute, as previously exercised by parliament
Oireachtas
The Oireachtas , sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature of Ireland. The Oireachtas consists of:*The President of Ireland*The two Houses of the Oireachtas :**Dáil Éireann...

 before the Nineteenth amendment. The government also cited concerns about the Chen case
Chen case
Kunqian Catherine Zhu, also known as Catherine , was born on 16 September 2000 in Belfast to Chinese parents who were living in Wales and working for a Chinese firm in Britain...

, then before the European Court of Justice
European Court of Justice
The Court can sit in plenary session, as a Grand Chamber of 13 judges, or in chambers of three or five judges. Plenary sitting are now very rare, and the court mostly sits in chambers of three or five judges...

, in which a Chinese woman who had been living in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 had gone to give birth in Northern Ireland on legal advice. Mrs. Chen then pursued a case against the British Home Secretary to prevent her deportation from the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 on the basis of her child's right as a citizen of the European Union
Citizenship of the European Union
Citizenship of the European Union was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty . European citizenship is supplementary to national citizenship and affords rights such as the right to vote in European elections, the right to free movement and the right to consular protection from other EU states'...

 (derived from the child's Irish citizenship) to reside in a member state of the Union. (Ultimately Mrs. Chen won her case but this was not clear until after the result of the referendum.) Both the proposed amendment and the timing of the referendum were contentious but the result was decisively in favour of the proposal; 79% of those voting voted yes, on a turnout of 59%.

The effect of the amendment was to prospectively restrict the constitutional right to citizenship by birth to those who are born on the island of Ireland to at least one parent who is (or is someone entitled to be) an Irish citizen. Those born on the island of Ireland before the coming into force of the amendment continue to have a constitutional right to citizenship. Moreover jus soli primarily existed in legislation and it remained, after the referendum, for parliament
Oireachtas
The Oireachtas , sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature of Ireland. The Oireachtas consists of:*The President of Ireland*The two Houses of the Oireachtas :**Dáil Éireann...

 to pass ordinary legislation that would modify it. This was in fact done by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004 (the effects of which are detailed above). It remains, however, a matter for the legislature and unrestricted jus soli could be re-established by ordinary legislation without a referendum.

See also

  • British nationality law and the Republic of Ireland
    British nationality law and the Republic of Ireland
    This article concerns British nationality law in respect of citizens of what is now the independent state of Ireland, which was known in the United Kingdom as "Eire" between 1937 and 1949, and which was the Irish Free State between 1922 and 1937...

  • Common Travel Area
    Common Travel Area
    The Common Travel Area is a passport-free zone that comprises the islands of Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The area's internal borders are subject to minimal or non-existent border controls and can normally be crossed by Irish and British citizens with only...

  • Jus sanguinis
    Jus sanguinis
    Ius sanguinis is a social policy by which citizenship is not determined by place of birth, but by having a parent who are citizens of the nation...

  • Jus soli
    Jus soli
    Jus soli , also known as birthright citizenship, is a right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognized to any individual born in the territory of the related state...

  • Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland
    Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland
    Article 2 and Article 3 of the Constitution of Ireland were adopted with the constitution as a whole on 29 December 1937, but completely revised by means of the Nineteenth Amendment which took effect on 2 December 1999...

  • Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
    Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
    The Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland provided that children born on the island of Ireland to parents who were both non-nationals would no longer have a constitutional right to citizenship of the Republic of Ireland...

  • Irish diaspora
    Irish diaspora
    thumb|Night Train with Reaper by London Irish artist [[Brian Whelan]] from the book Myth of Return, 2007The Irish diaspora consists of Irish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa,...


External links

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