Attending the Irish Citizenship Ceremony

On Monday 9th December 2019 I attended the ceremony in the Killarney Convention Centre to become an Irish Citizen through naturalisation.

I’ve written about different elements of my Irish Citizenship journey before, but I thought it might be interesting for people to hear about the ceremony itself.

Travel

Since 2018 all of the large citizenship ceremonies have taken place in the INEC / Killarney Convention Centre in Killarney, Co. Kerry. Depending on where in Ireland you live, the journey to Killarney might be quite long.

I live in Dublin, and it took us about 4 hours each way to drive to Killarney. You can also get there by Train or Bus, or you can even fly into Kerry Airport, but your travel options may be limited depending on the time of day of your ceremony.

We chose to drive down to Killarney on the day before, stay overnight in a hotel, and then drive back to Dublin after the ceremony in the afternoon/evening.

Queuing

The invitation letter states the time that you are asked to attend to register. You are not required to get there early (you may be turned away if you are very early), and it probably doesn’t matter that much if you’re up to 30 minutes late. My invite said to attend at 1.15pm, and when I got there at 1.00pm there were a few hundred people ahead of me in the queue, and soon hundreds more gathered behind.

Inside the Convention Centre there are a couple of rooms just dedicated to queuing. Long lines of people snaked up and down the room in a well-organised queue as people waited to register. You might need to wait for a while to register, so if you or your guest have mobility issues, or problems standing for a period of time, you are best to let the authorities know in advance to make special arrangements.

You queue with your guest until you get to just before the actual registration room, at which point the ceremony candidates are separated from guests. You will not be allowed to sit with your guest. Guests are sent upstairs to view the ceremony from the galleries. Citizenship candidates are shown into a different room to register, and from there into the hall at ground level.

In the invite it says you can only bring one guest, and that you shouldn’t bring children. However if you do, then the additional guests and any children (who must be accompanied I guess) will be directed to a separate ‘green room’ where they can watch the ceremony on a live video stream.

Registration

When you register, you go to the desk number on your invite letter (I think there were 24 desks), hand over your invite and show your photo ID. The instructions say that they will accept a passport, driver’s licence or public services card. However, when I showed my PSC they asked for something else that showed my date of birth – so maybe passport or driver’s license is better.

The person at the desk will ask you to sign a form, and then they will give you a plastic folder containing:

  • Your naturalisation / citizenship certificate
  • Your declaration of allegiance and fidelity to the Irish state
  • Words of the national anthem
  • Information about applying for a passport
  • Information about jobs in the public sector
  • Receipt for the payment of €950
  • A letter of welcome from the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar

I was also given a pin badge with the Irish flag on it.

Ceremony

The ceremony is a mixture of music, a couple of short speeches, and the formal declaration from all the citizenship candidates.

Our music was provided by one of the army’s regimental bands, and also by a soloist playing the Irish harp. The band played a selection of light music for about 25 minutes at the start. The Irish flag was also marched onto the stage by members of the armed forces.

In attendance on the stage were:

  • David Stanton TD, the Minister of State for Justice at the Department of Justice and Equality with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration, and Integration
  • Retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon
  • Mayor of Kerry

The minister made a short speech about citizenship and inclusion in Irish society. The judge also make a short speech on the same topic, and then also presided over the formal declaration which was made by all citizenship candidates at the same time. The national anthem was then played, with only a few people singing it in Irish!

And as soon as the declaration was made, all of the candidates were officially Irish Citizens.

Before the end there was a short announcement on applying for jobs in the Irish public sector, and also an overview of how to apply for your Irish passport using the new online process.

And that was the end. The entire ceremony took less than an hour. My call time for registration was at 1.15pm, the ceremony started a little after 2.00pm, and was over by 3.00pm.

Afterwards

Afterwards it took a while to find my wife, as she left the venue from a different exit. We then took a few photos outside the convention centre, and then set off home.

The stewards and Guards are clearly well-organised at traffic management, and we left the site and Killarney quite quickly.

Becoming Irish

I’ve written a fair bit about my application for Irish Citizenship over the last couple of years, but I only just got confirmation that it’s finally going to happen.

I sent in my application in March 2018, about 20 months ago, and this week I received my invitation to my Citizenship Ceremony taking place in the Killarney Convention Centre (INEC) on Monday 9th December.

And so in 10 days’ time I’ll officially be an Irish Citizen, and still a British Citizen, as both countries allow people to maintain dual citizenship – and I’ll be able to apply for an Irish passport.

It was in 2007 that I arrived to live and work in Dublin, and in 2013 that I married my Irish wife, and over that time Ireland has definitely become my home. I have no desire to ever move back to live in the UK, particularly with all the Brexit nonsense going on, so I’m glad that I can feel fully settled here as one of its citizens.

The ceremony

Attendance at a citizenship ceremony is mandatory for all adults receiving citizenship through naturalisation.

They take place several times a year, and since 2018 they have been hosted in Killarney. Often there are three different ceremonies during the during the day, welcoming around 1,000 new Irish citizens in each ceremony.

The drive to Killarney is around 4 hours each way from Dublin, so we’re planning to drive down the day before and stay in a hotel overnight in order to share out the driving over two days.

When I register on the day I’ll be given my Certificate of Naturalisation, and then during the ceremony I’ll join the others there in making a declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State. And at that point I’ll officially be Irish!

Nearly Irish?

I got a letter from the Department of Justice earlier this week indicating that I’m at the final stage before getting my citizenship.

The letter says:

I refer to your application for a certificate of naturalisation. The Minister proposes to grant your application, subject to the successful completion of the application process.

It then goes on to request that I send the final €950.00 fee, along with two passport sized photographs. The idea being that once these are received they will send me an invite to the next ceremony.

After the High Court ruling in July about continuous residency rules all citizenship ceremonies had been put on hold. But a week ago the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling, allowing for ceremonies to recommence.

The Department of Justice immediately advertised a new ceremony date of the 9th December, and it seems they are now contacting loads of people – including me – to potentially fill the places on that date.

So far I’ve been waiting 20 months for my Irish Citizenship to be processed, but it looks like I won’t have to wait too much longer!

High Court rules on Continuous Residence

Last week the High Court ruled that naturalisation applicants are not allowed to leave Ireland at all in the 12 months leading up to their application.

Why did this happen?

An Australian citizen applied for Irish citizenship in 2017 and had their application rejected because they were absent from Ireland for 100 days (97 days of holiday and 3 days or business travel) in the year prior to application. They then decided to challenge the rejection in the High Court, and lost.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 states that the applicant must have “had a period of one year’s continuous residence in the State immediately before the date of the application“.

Until now the Department of Justice has allowed people to be absent for a discretionary period of up to 6 weeks, and still be considered in ‘continuous residence’. However the judge in the High Court has rules that there is no provision in the law for this discretionary period, and has also interpreted ‘continuous residence’ as ‘continuous presence’ – meaning that applicants cannot leave Ireland for even an hour during the year prior to application.

What’s going to happen now?

This could potentially impact all naturalisation applicants in Ireland. Many will have travelled outside the state during the year prior to application, and thus – according to this ruling – their application is now invalid.

The Minister of Justice has promised that “This issue is being dealt with as an urgent priority and I will take any necessary action to resolve it.” However the Dáil is currently in summer recess until the 17th September, and if legislation is required to ‘fix’ this issue, then it won’t happen for a least a few months.

My best guess is that:

  • INIS will most likely continue to process citizenship applications, but nobody will be notified their application has been successful until this mess is sorted out.
  • The citizenship ceremony scheduled for 30th September will probably not happen, as there’s not enough time to enact new legislation before then.
  • The number of people applying for citizenship will drop off until the uncertainty is resolved. This may be of some benefit to applicants already going though the process, as INIS will have fewer applications to deal with.
  • A small amendment to the legislation to clarify the 6 week discretionary period will be passed some time in the autumn; at which time applications will then start to be approved again.

What about those who didn’t leave Ireland during the 12 months?

I doubt that INIS have the resources or the means to establish when applicants have crossed the border – and even if they did, there’d be no record of people crossing the border into Northern Ireland.

The current naturalisation form specifically asks the question:

5.6 Have you been absent from the State for more than 6 weeks per annum in any of the past 5 years?

FORM 8 – IRISH NATIONALITY AND CITIZENSHIP ACT 1956 , Version 5.7

However there’s nothing on the form that asks about absences of up to 6 weeks. And without that declaration from candidates, there’s no way for INIS to know either way.

What should citizenship applicants do?

Some people are advocating contacting TDs to try and escalate the issue, but I’m sceptical about whether this will deliver any benefit. I think that people just have to hold on for the next few months, and wait for the Department of Justice to find a solution.

I’d instead advise people to hold on and see what happens over the next few months. Legal situations are never resolved quickly, so don’t expect updates about this on a regular basis.

For myself, I’ve been waiting 16 months for my application to be processed, and I guess I’m going to carry on waiting another indeterminate amount of time!

Second stage of processing

I got a letter from the Department of Justice and Equality today, saying that my application for naturalisation has processed to the second stage of processing.

The letter says:

Your application has now been initially assessed and has proceeded to the second stage of processing.

Your application is being processed with a view to establishing whether you meet the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to the Minister for decision as expeditiously as possible as soon as our enquiries are complete and all required documentation has been compiled.

It’s taken nearly 15 months to get to this stage of my application, and I’m not entirely sure what this ‘second stage’ is. Some people say it’s the part of the process when they go to An Garda Siochana to get a background check. If that’s true, then there’s probably a long way still to go before I’ll get my citizenship.

On the Immigration Boards website there are people who seem to move to the second stage after only a few weeks – some at the same time as their passport is returned.

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