The UK Government has been urged to abolish British naturalisation fees for Irish citizens.
MPs on the Northern Irish Affairs committee said in a report that they believe the Home Office fails to understand and reflect historical nuances when it treats Irish citizens as people from any other third country.
Naturalisation is a lengthy process, costing £1330, and applicants must also take a ‘Life In The UK’ test, costing an extra £50, and attend a mandatory citizenship ceremony.
The report also urges the government to drop the requirement for Irish citizens to sit the test, and to make attendance at the ceremony optional.
The committee examined the compatibility of UK nationality rules with the Good Friday Agreement, following the high-profile court case between the government and Northern Ireland resident Emma DeSouza.
Ms DeSouza challenged the government’s position that she was a British citizen through automatic conferral as she always identified as Irish-only and held a passport accordingly.
During their investigation, MPs heard evidence from DUP peer Lord Hay, who was born in the Republic but is a long-term resident in Northern Ireland.
He holds an Irish passport but, when he applied for a UK passport, he had to apply for British citizenship. He said he was invited for an interview to prove his nationality, but was not prepared to do so.
He said the process would put off many people born in the Republic of Ireland who wanted a UK passport.
Committee chairman Simon Hoare said: “Respect for, and acceptance of, people’s identities in Northern Ireland is a cornerstone of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
“It’s clear that the current approach towards citizenship issues from the Home Office has failed to consider the history, personal ties and movement of people between the two countries.
“As a consequence, the government’s universal approach to citizenship leaves some feeling unable to assert properly and simply their identity as either Irish or British or both.”
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