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Citizenship application denied on grounds that applicant had not satisfied 'continuous residence' requirement

Jones v Minister for Justice and Equality [2019] IEHC 519


The applicant, an Australian national, came before the court seeking to become an Irish citizen through naturalisation under s 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 - as substituted by s 4 of the 1986 Act. The key issue here was the 'continuous residence' requirement contained in sub-section (c), which the applicant was held not to have satisfied.

The relevant one year period for the purpose of the plaintiff's application ran from 1 September 2016 to 31 August 2017. The applicant was outside of the territory of the state for 100 days during this calendar year and for this reason, in a letter dated 11 October 2018, the Minister decided that the applicant would be ineligible for naturalisation.

The Minister's decision was therefore grounded in the fact that the time the applicant spent outside of the state during this period totalled in excess of the usual 'discretionary absence period of six weeks' - which can be extended in unavoidable circumstances.

In finding in the Minister's favour, the trial judge contended that although he agreed with the conclusion reached, he disagreed with the interpretation of the word 'continuous' as being somewhat flexible - preferring instead to take the dictionary definition. The learned judge also recommended that if unfairness is to result from such a strict definition, the best method for rectifying this is through the Oireachtas and not the courts.


Quotation from judgement, delivered by Barrett J on 11 July 2019:

'Although the Minister has manifested very real humanity in trying to nuance the clear wording and effect of s 15(1)(c) by applying a 'discretionary absence period'... so as to allow for the realities of modern life in which multiple work/holiday absences may be possible in any one year, unfortunately, the Minister has gone beyond what is legally permissible... The word "continuous" in s 15(1)(c) bears its ordinary English language meaning... "unbroken, uninterrupted, connected throughout in space or time". The effect of this definition is clear when it comes to s 15(1)(c): for the last year prior to a naturalisation application an applicant must show a one-year period of residence in Ireland that is unbroken, uninterrupted, connected throughout in space or time.'



Note: This is intended to be a fair and accurate report of a decision made public by a court of law. For further reading in the area of citizenship rights, see Kelly: The Irish Constitution (5th edn, 2018), Chapter 3.3. Non-subscribers may purchase a hard-copy here.

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