Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that have applied for naturalisation on the basis of being married to an Irish citizen since it was no longer possible to make a post nuptial declaration of citizenship, 29 November 2005; the number of those applicants since 29 November 2005 that have been deemed acceptable to be naturalised and eligible to apply for citizenship; the number of applicants since 29 November 2005 that have been refused as eligible to apply for citizenship; the number of applications now pending for spouses of Irish citizens since 29 November 2005; the logistics of interdepartmental checks that take place for this process; what the departmental checks entail; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): The number of persons that have applied for a Certificate of Naturalisation under section 15A of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 as amended for the period from 29 November 2005 to 30 June 2012 is approximately 7,300. This section refers to the circumstances in which spouses of Irish citizens may become naturalised.
In the period in question the approximate number of applications approved, including a small number lodged before the 29 November 2005, is approximately 4,300, the number deemed to be ineligible was 400 and the total number refused was 160. The number of applications awaiting decision is some 2,800, almost 80% of which were lodged in 2011 and 2012 to date.
The Deputy will appreciate that naturalisation applications must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that citizenship is not undervalued and is given only to persons who satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria. The processing procedures, which I am satisfied are necessary to maintain the integrity of the naturalisation process, have been developed and refined over a number of years.
The procedures employed to assess an applicant for naturalisation include an initial examination upon receipt of each application to determine if the statutory application is completed fully. Incomplete application forms are returned to the applicant for further attention. Valid applications are then examined to determine if the applicant meets the statutory criteria set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act such as good character and lawful residence, and, as appropriate, enquiries are made with the relevant Departments and agencies to establish if the applicant meets the requirements for the granting of naturalisation. Once these processes are completed, the application is submitted to me for a decision which I make in my absolute discretion by assessing the entirety of the information available to me.