Update: Court of Appeal overturns controversial High Court ruling on citizenship applications
The case of Jones v Minister for Justice has caused great uncertainty over the past number of months for those applying for Irish citizenship. The case was taken by an Australian man, Roderick Jones, who had been refused a certificate of naturalisation because he was outside of Ireland for 97 days in the year prior to his application. The Minister had applied the general policy that an applicant could be outside the State for 6 weeks in the year prior to their application, and refused Mr. Jones's application. On Friday 11th July 2018, the High Court made a ruling that the “continuous residence” requirement in Section 15(1) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 required that an applicant for naturalisation must not have even one days absence from Ireland in the year prior to their naturalisation application and that the Minister had no discretion in how this was applied.
The case was appealed to the Court of Appeal, who gave their judgment today. The ruling of the High Court was overturned, with three judges in the Court of Appeal declaring that the High Court ruling was unworkable, overly rigid and an absurdity. The Court of Appeal took no issue with the Minister's policy that applicants for naturalisation were permitted to be outside of Ireland for up to six weeks in the year leading up to their application. They said that this was a reasonable approach and allowed for clarity so that applicants would know what requirements they had to meet before making an application.
This ruling allows the Minister to continue to be flexible with regard to absences from Ireland in the year prior to a person making an application for naturalisation. The six week rule creates a general policy for people to follow, but the Minister can still consider granting someone's application if you were outside of Ireland for more than six weeks due to illness or a family emergency.
This case could now be appealed to the Supreme Court, who will have to decide if there are good grounds for an appeal before hearing the case. In any event, we hope that many of our clients who have been waiting a long time for an answer on their applications for naturalisation will soon have good news in that regard.