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New Irish disenfranchised by Government inefficiency – Ó Caoláin

4 April, 2007


Sinn Féin's Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has condemned Government inefficiency in processing citizenship applications, resulting in the effective disenfranchisement of immigrants who should be entitled to vote in the upcoming general election.

The Cavan-Monaghan Deputy said, "Data that I have obtained from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform show that more than 1500 citizenship applications filed between 2002 and 2004 have yet to be decided. This includes more than one-third of all applications filed in 2004.

"This is a completely unreasonable delay. It compares unfavourably with processing times in other European countries, including the neighbouring island, where the current average processing time is 3.55 months. This is not due to stricter procedures in this State but merely to inefficiency and under-resourcing in the Justice Department, such that an application will sit on the shelf for almost two years before examination of it even begins.

"While this delay is problematic for a number of reasons, it is particularly acute in a General Election year as only people holding Irish or British citizenship will be eligible to vote. Many of these applicants have long since exceeded the five-year statutory requirement for naturalisation and should be entitled to fully participate in the electoral process. Instead, they have effectively been disenfranchised through no fault of their own.

"The Government and the Minister need to thoroughly review the allocation of resources to the immigration section of the Justice Department. If we are serious about helping our new arrivals integrate and become active citizens, we must stop putting unreasonable obstacles such as these excessive, unnecessary delays in their path." ENDS

Notes to editors:

1) The data referred to in the statement are copied below.

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell) by Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

addressed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell) by Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

for WRITTEN on Tuesday, 3rd April, 2007.

* To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of pending naturalisation applications that were filed in 2004; the number that were filed in 2003; and the number that were filed in any previous years.- Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the accompanying table. There are no applications made prior to 2002 which are still outstanding.

Year

Naturalisation applications received

Naturalisation applications pending

2002

3574

13

2003

3580

132

2004

4074

1362

2) Waiting times from the British Home Office website (http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/applying/nationality/) are set out below:

Nationality application waiting times

Naturalisation 3.80 months

Adult registrations 1.85 months

Registration of minors 3.06 months

Other registrations 3.16months

Registration of stateless persons 5.94 months

Renunciations 1.65 months

Right of Abode applications 1.37 months

Average times for all Nationality applications (as of end of March) 3.55 months

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