Ruadhán Mac Cormaic, Irish Times, September 10, 2009
FIANNA FÁIL has reduced Irish citizenship to a “meaningless money-spinner” used by some immigrants solely as a means of exiting the immigration system, Fine Gael has claimed.
Calling for the publication of a Green Paper on citizenship, the party’s spokesman on immigration and integration, Denis Naughten, said the concept had become “devoid of any value or pride” and endorsed the introduction of language and culture tests for those applying for naturalisation.
He pointed out that a recent decision by the Minister for Justice to impose a € 500 fee for long-term residence applications meant a citizenship application now cost just €450 more. Applicants for both citizenship and long-term residence have to prove they have been legally resident in the State for at least five years, and processing delays mean the waiting times for each application are similar.
This created an incentive for foreign nationals to opt for citizenship, which allowed them “avoid some of the bureaucracy and red tape in having to renew their residency and having to carry a Garda registration card at all times,” Mr Naughten said. “Irish citizenship is therefore becoming a meaningless vehicle for exiting the immigration system. It is a sad state of affairs that Irish citizenship has become devoid of any value or pride. To Fianna Fáil, it has become a meaningless money spinner and for some migrants it is just a vehicle to exit the immigration system.”
Urging reform of the process, Mr Naughten said the naturalisation should be reached by way of a series of “stepping stones” that would encourage applicants’ social integration. These would include civics classes and tests of language competence and knowledge of Irish history and culture.
Citizenship ceremonies could be introduced so that new Irish citizens and their families could publicly declare their desire to integrate into Irish society, he added.
“The present system is such a mess, it is open to abuse. At present, our naturalisation rates are extremely low when compared to other countries and as a result we prevent any meaningful participation of newcomers into Irish society.” A Green Paper on citizenship would allow for an informed debate on the subject, he said.