UK immigration minister Caroline Nokes has been forced to defend the passport application process that’s faced by Republic of Ireland-born residents in Northern Ireland, which has been described by another MP as “torturous”.
Ms Nokes was questioned by members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee after it was suggested that there is no “parity of esteem” between residents of Northern Ireland who wish to apply for Irish citizenship, compared to those born in the Republic who live in the North and want a British passport.
According to Ms Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton, she is not fully aware of the number of people who currently face the situation of being unable to apply for a passport without dealing with a prolonged “naturalisation” process.
However, she did point out that Republic-born residents of Northern Ireland are able to make use of a special arrangement that allows a faster visa process.
Despite this, rules suggest that anyone born in the Republic after 1949 is required to face a process of naturalisation in order to receive a British passport, regardless of the length of time they have lived in Northern Ireland. This process also includes a fee of more than £1,300.
Commenting on the situation, DUP’s Gregory Campbell stated that it was a clear “contravention” of the Good Friday Agreement.
“It’s quite clearly an anomaly that has to be changed. Either that or abolish that sentence of the agreement,” he said. “An Irish citizen living in Northern Ireland has a right to access the same goods and services.”