Saturday, October 16

Irish-born DUP colleague refuses to take the Home Office exam for a British passport | North Ireland

A fellow Unionist Democrat has said that he was forced to have an Irish passport due to discrimination from the Home Office.

Willie Hay, Lord Hay of Ballyore, told MPs that he would not take a Life in the UK citizenship test and neither should 40,000 other people like him who were born across the border but have lived their entire lives. in Northern Ireland.

The 70-year-old said that when he applied for a British passport he was told that he had to apply for citizenship first and was invited to attend an interview to prove his nationality, but he refused to do so on the grounds that it was not justified.

“I have been in Northern Ireland my whole life. Why should I be interviewed … [I] just refuse to do that. I mean it’s wrong, ”he told the Northern Ireland affairs committee.

“You are living your life, you are part of the UK. You pay your taxes. We are also voting, whether in the House of Lords or wherever that may be. I don’t think I should have to go to Liverpool [for the Life in the UK test] For something [for which] the proof is already there. “

A prominent member of the DUP, Hay has held a number of high-level positions in public life, including President of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Mayor of Derry.

He has been part of the British political machine and has received reports of “important security” from the police and MI5 and yet said that he was not seen as British simply because he was born 10 miles across the border in Donegal. . This rule applies to anyone born after 1949, when the Republic of Ireland was formally incorporated.

Hay said it was “absolutely crazy” that Irish citizens in Northern Ireland who had never lived in the republic could easily obtain Irish passports and people like him could not obtain British passports.

That “goes against the grain” of the Belfast Good Friday agreement, which allows citizens of Northern Ireland to identify themselves as British, Irish or both, he said.

“I see myself as a British citizen living in Northern Ireland my whole life. I am entitled to British citizenship and a British passport. They are discriminating against me because I cannot get my British passport.

“I consider myself British. Right now, I need to have an Irish passport to get where I need to be, ”he said, arguing that the British government was pushing people like him to obtain Irish citizenship.

He said that many people were also discouraged from applying for a British passport due to the prohibitive £ 1,300 cost of the citizenship process. Irish passports, by contrast, cost around £ 70, he said.

He called on people at the “highest level of government” to resolve the matter, but said he feared the Interior Ministry was “afraid to open a Pandora’s box” around immigration rules.

He told MP Ian Paisley that he felt “very much” that his human rights were being violated, as were “many, many other people in NI, people who have come from the Republic of Ireland, who now live in Northern Ireland for the whole of his life”. . “

Unlike the Home Office, the Irish were eager to hand out passports to their citizens. “There is nothing they would not do” to issue a passport, he said. There was even a follow-up service to see how an application was progressing. “That’s how skilled they are.”

The committee also heard from Emma de Souza, an activist who took the government to court for the citizenship rights of her US-born husband.

She identifies as Irish, but was told that her husband’s application for residency rights required her to either present herself as a British citizen or renounce her British citizenship and pay a fee to apply for Irish citizenship.

She told the committee that 23 years after the Good Friday agreement, more work was needed to give the citizenship rights proposed in the agreement “legal meaning.”

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