Skip to main content

Government response to citizenship in N Ireland probe ‘insensitive and ignorant’

3 February 2022

The cross-party Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has criticised the Government’s response to its report on Citizenship and Passport Processes relating to Northern Ireland.

The response, published today, was the Home Office’s second reply to address the Committee’s recommendations. MPs on the cross-party Committee were so disappointed by the original that they asked the Government to rethink and resubmit.

Published in July, the Committee’s report called for the Government to drop British naturalisation fees and the ‘Life in the UK’ test for Irish citizens who had lived in the UK for five years or more, citing the importance of the historical ties between the UK and Ireland. However, the Government has rejected the report’s recommendations believing that a ‘rest of the world’ response is best. The Committee believes this to be an inherently wrong approach, demonstrating a lack of empathy for, and understanding of, the UK and Ireland’s joint histories. The Committee’s report also highlighted the need to clarify what ‘accepting’ the identities of the people of Northern Ireland – as written into the birthright provisions of the Good Friday Agreement – mean in practice, and to ensure fairness in the process of renouncing UK citizenship for those wishing to do so.

Chair's comment

Commenting on the response, Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Simon Hoare, said, “It’s inadequate, insensitive, and ignorant for the Government to treat the Republic of Ireland as any other third country when it comes to naturalisation and identity. The relationship between our two countries is too deep.

Compelling people who have in some cases spent nearly their whole lives in Northern Ireland, merely because they were born just across the border, and who feel themselves to be British, to face high costs and frankly unnecessary tests to acquire British citizenship is deeply insulting and unfair. We are disappointed that the Government have rejected our report’s recommendations on these counts.

The open border on the island of Ireland fosters strong and enduring ties, with families and even homes straddling a line that is invisible, yet undeniable. Ministers need to recognise that the UK’s relationship with Ireland is unique. It should not be, and cannot be, just another country in the Government’s global immigration policy.”

Further information

Image: PA