Judge rules citizenship applicants can’t leave

A shock High Court ruling that anyone applying for citizenship must not leave the country at all in the year before their application could impact thousands of people.

Judge rules citizenship applicants can’t leave

By Conall Ó Fátharta and Ann O’Loughlin

A shock High Court ruling that anyone applying for citizenship must not leave the country at all in the year before their application could impact thousands of people.

In a ruling branded as “absurd” by some legal experts, Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled the “continuous residence” requirement in citizenship applications means an applicant for naturalisation must have “unbroken” residence in the State for an entire year immediately before the date of their application.

The minister for justice’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 law, Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled.

That “might seem unfair” in a world where many many people travel abroad for work and take foreign breaksholidays more than once a year, but it is what the relevant law requires, he said.

The cure for any such unfairness is not to be found in the courts, it “lies in the gift of the legislature”, he added.

He made the findings when rejecting a challenge by Roderick Jones, from Australia, to the minister’s refusal of his application to become a naturalised citizen.

In a separate judgment, the High Court has declared unconstitutional a law preventing the recognition, for family reunification purposes, of marriages of refugees which took place after they sought protection here.

Mr Justice Barrett made the declaration in relation to Section 56.9.a of the International Protection Act 2015, which states a refugee can apply for permission for a spouse to enter and reside with them in Ireland, provided they had married before the applicant sought international protection here.

As a result of his findings in favour of an Afghan man who brought the legal challenge, the judge said the man is entitled to an order quashing the Minister for Justice’s refusal to recognise his marriage for family reunification purposes.

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