Speaking in Parliament, Gavin Robinson MP said;
“The Belfast Agreement sought to address issues of identity. Whilst it was accepted and acknowledged that Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom was constitutionally settled, those with a competing aspiration could not only avail of Irish identity, the Republic of Ireland government afforded them the opportunity to attain Irish Citizenship. Some hold that citizenship singularly, whilst others happily enjoy dual citizenship of both the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
What was not settled however was reciprocation in the other direction.
Our history and relationship is inter-twinned and this Bill seeks to provide the final piece of that relational jigsaw. Anyone born in the Republic of Ireland but who lives within the United Kingdom and satisfies the residency test should be able to avail of UK Citizenship.
Referring to the prominent example of the DUP’s Lord Hay of Ballyore, Mr Robinson added;
“He was born in Donegal yet has lived for the overwhelming majority of his life in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. He served on his local council from 1981. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 and served as the Speaker of the Assembly from 2007 to 2014. That year, he was elevated to the House of Lords and to this day, remains a Peer of this Realm and legislator in our Parliament. Yet he isn’t a British Citizen.
And the question is this? Should anyone in that position, serving practically, materially and productively be expected to pay a naturalisation fee of £1,580 and complete a ‘Life in the UK’ citizenship test. The notion that they should have to do so is offensive, contrary to the spirit of reciprocation offered through the Belfast Agreement in 1998, blind to our history and ignorant of the legal reality.
We also know from the 2021 Census figures that there are some 40,400 people living in Northern Ireland who were born in the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore, we know that circa 32,000 of them were born after 1948 and therefore could avail of this Bill.
To quote the former Labour MP for Thurrock and great friend of Northern Ireland, Andrew MacKinlay when he debated this point in 2009, “We have an opportunity, which the House will probably not have again for some years, to right a wrong, provide parity of treatment for people who are Irish…. And allow them to identify with their Britishness.”