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Policy towards spouses of Irish citizens a shambles - Ó Caoláin

11 November, 2005

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD today responded to reports by the Immigrant Council of Ireland that almost one of every five calls to their office is from an Irish national whose spouse cannot enter the country.

The Sinn Féin Dáil Leader said: "This comes as no surprise whatsoever to me. I have tabled a number of questions recently on this subject to the Minister for Justice and from his replies it is apparent that his policy towards these couples is a shambles.

"Consider the following:

· Under EU law, an application for residency in the State based on marriage to an EU national must be processed within six months. However, marriages to an Irish national are excluded from this requirement and so the Department of Justice does not prioritise them. At present, they are taking 16-18 months.

· A non-national spouse has no right to live in the State while their application is being processed. However, the application will not be approved unless they are living with their spouse. Minister McDowell could not explain to me how it is possible for someone to live with their spouse in the State if he will not grant them permission to do so.

· While an application is pending the non-national spouse may not work without a work permit. However, if this policy forces the couple to resort to social welfare, the Minister may later deny naturalisation to the spouse - on the grounds that they have recently been a burden on the State!

"The contradictions above are obvious and would be comical were it not for the great hardship they are causing. The manner of dealing with these applications needs to be re-thought urgently. The cornerstone of any approach or policy must be respect for the right of an Irish citizen to the companionship and support of their spouse." ENDS

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