UCC lecturer slams High Court residency ruling on citizenship

UCC lecturer slams High Court residency ruling on citizenship
New Irish citizens celebrating after a recent  Citizenship ceremony in Waterford. Many fear the recent court ruling will have a severe impact on those seeking to become Irish citizens. 

A LECTURER at University College Cork (UCC) has said the controversial High Court ruling that requires residents seeking Irish citizenship to remain in Ireland for a year has a profound impact on her personally and professionally.

Theresa O’Keeffe, lecturer in UCC’s Department of Sociology, was speaking to The Echo after Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled the “continuous residence” requirement in citizenship applications means an applicant must have “unbroken” residence in Ireland for an entire year prior to the date of their application.

The decision means that people cannot leave the country for even one day whereas before, six weeks discretion was used in certain circumstances.

“The judgement has a profound impact on me personally and professionally,” said Ms O’Keeffe.

“This literal interpretation of continuous residence prevents me from travelling for any length of time, be it for a day, a week, a month.

“As an academic my job requires travel for conferences, meetings and to conduct research. Part of my research is based on Northern Ireland and this requires me to travel across the border to carry out my research.”

Ms O’Keeffe is also a member of a number of European research networks, which requires her to attend meetings and academic conferences outside of Ireland.

“This ruling means that if I ever travel for work, even for a day up north, I will fail to meet the criteria for citizenship,” she said. “If I return to Newfoundland to visit my family at any point then I fail to meet the criteria for citizenship.

“I have lived in Ireland for over 15 years. This is my home. I was in the process of applying for citizenship and now there is just no point.

“Naturalisation is, in effect, non-existent as a result of this decision and it is now all but impossible for people like me to become citizens of Ireland.”

Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has reportedly said the recent High Court decision was being dealt with as an urgent priority by his department.

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