DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has backed the call by a cross-party group of MPs at Westminster for the Government to remove fees currently imposed on residents of Northern Ireland who were born in the Irish Republic in their demand for recognition as British citizens.
Responding to the publication of a report on citizenship and passport processes by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Mr Campbell said:
‘‘I welcome the findings of this Report insofar as they go. I originally asked the Committee to begin examining this issue as it has been an affront for decades, having raised it consistently for many years, this is a positive step.
The £1,330 fee faced by UK residents born in the Republic of Ireland who wish to assert a British identity by holding a British passport is entirely unreasonable, indefensible and should rightly be scrapped. The route to citizenship for those who have spent the vast majority of their lives living and working here, contributing to British life and cherishing our traditions should not be fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. It is a matter of regret that successive Governments have chosen to turn a blind eye to their plight. That attitude must change and change quickly.
It is perverse that those seeking to come to the UK having never been to our country previously can expect a more slick and timely process than those who have lived here and paid taxes over many years. There is also an added inequality in that people born in Northern Ireland, some of whom have never been to, or lived, in the Irish Republic can apply for and receive Irish passports for a small fee of €80 under the Belfast Agreement. Ministers should move urgently to make the necessary changes to citizenship and passport processes and end the chill effect which these irrational barriers have had on those impacted.
Separately, the DUP believes the Report’s acknowledgement that under the British Nationality Act 1981, most people of Northern Ireland are automatically British citizens by birth is constructive. This is not inconsistent with the birthright of people in Northern Ireland to identify as Irish or British or both, as they choose, but rather a practical recognition of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. This strikes to the heart of the principle of consent.’’